Last week I received a phone call just after breakfast from someone I knew to say that her mother had just fallen asleep in her chair. Nothing too surprising about that, I thought, after all she’s well past 90. But my friend seemed unusually concerned, so I agreed to pop round.

When I arrived, I could see that her mother was still asleep in her chair, seemed to be breathing well, but appeared to have lost consciousness – so we decided to call for an ambulance straight away.

On getting through to the ambulance service, I was asked a number of questions, and then told the ambulance was on its way.

In the 35 minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive, two things struck me. The telephone operator, who generally did an extremely good and professional job, stayed on the line throughout, and then after a while asked me to lift the patient off her chair and lie her flat on the floor. Even with the two of us to help, this struck me as quite a difficult, and not necessarily beneficial thing to do – at least, to do safely – and we decided to leave her as she was.

The second thing that struck me was there was no information provided during the call as to the location of the ambulance and likely arrival time, just that it was on its way. So the wait could have been 5 minutes or 50. Apparently this is standard practice. But how much more comfort I could have given my friend and her mother if I had been able to say that they were, say, 10 to 15 minutes away. When I asked the question, the call handler told me she didn’t know.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the ambulance service is fantastic, but surely in this technological age it should be possible to provide an estimate of arrival time of an ambulance, of all things?