AN elderly woman who suffered a painful fall was left lying on the pavement with her “head in the road” for nearly five hours as she waited for an ambulance.

Eyewitnesses said the 68-year-old woman fell while walking in Woodberry Way, Walton, at about 5pm, on Monday.

Several people who were passing by at the time of the incident rushed to her aid, including an off-duty nurse who is believed to have called for an ambulance.

Joseph Roberts, who lives in Walton, was driving past the scene when he noticed the crowd of people standing around the woman.

As a volunteer for the Walton Community Care Hospital Service, which supports people across Essex, he felt compelled to stop and provide assistance.

He then also called the East of England Ambulance Service, before being told the pensioner could be waiting as long as five hours before paramedics could attend.

“She had fell and hurt her hips so a few people, including myself, stopped to help her,” said Mr Roberts.

“She had been laying half on the pavement and half in the road, with her head in the road, and she was in pain but she could talk.

“When calling the ambulance, we were told it could be five hours away – what a shambles this country has become.

“I stayed for a while and it felt hard for me to leave because I volunteer for a hospital charity but I was told a police unit was on its way.

“I would have happily run her to A&E but to move her could have caused even more damage.”

After the arrival of the police, Walton and Frinton RNLI crew members were also called to the scene, due to the lady being in a potentially dangerous position on the highway.

Armed with a stretcher and pain relief equipment, they kept the woman as comfortable as possible until paramedics arrived after 9.30pm.

A spokesman for the RNLI said: "We were glad to put our training and resources to good use making the lady as comfortable as possible at a time when there is extra pressure on the ambulance service.

"We were also very grateful for the assistance offered by members of the public, including an off-duty theatre nurse, who stopped to help.

"It was a great show of teamwork and a credit to our community."

A spokesman from the East of England Ambulance Service has apologised for the delay the patient had to endure.

He said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that every patient receives the best possible care and always regret any distress caused when patients have to wait to be assessed and treated.

“This can happen when we are experiencing a high level of calls to people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, as we were on the evening of September 14.

“We are sorry this patient had to wait for an ambulance.”