A great-grandmother with a broken hip was taken to hospital on a bin lid in a white van after being told she "wasn't eligible" for an ambulance, her family claim.
Pamela Rolfe, 79, was walking her dog in a park in Wrexham when she fell on 29 December.
She was helped by passers-by who put a blanket over her to keep her warm before her daughter Dawn Hamilton, 58, arrived at the scene.
Dawn phoned to see where the ambulance was and said she was told due to the current crisis her mum did not qualify for one.
Dawn's partner had recently rented a white van and they intitially looked for an ironing board to place Pamela on.
But neighbour then tore the lid of a gritter box for them to use instead.
Great-gran-of-two Pamela, from Johnstown, is now in a wheelchair after being admitted to Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
Her daughter Dawn said: "My mum fell at 11am, due to us doing our own ambulance service she was in a bed by 7pm.
"I got there around 12.30pm and she was all covered up in a duvet.
"It was starting to rain and it was cold and windy."
Mum-of- three Dawn added: "We drove to where the ambulances were in A&E and a paramedic who is also a neighbour helped put her on a trolley.
"She got through straight away and had an operation the next day.
"I couldn't believe A&E, there were queues outside the door."
Dawn said it was lucky they had bought the van recently, saying: "If my mum had got in an ambulance she would have been stuck outside A&E, she could be dead."
It comes as senior doctors say the NHS is on a knife edge, with many A&E units struggling to keep up with demand and trusts and ambulance services declaring critical incidents.
Official figures show ambulance handover delays have hit a new high, with more than a quarter (26%) of patients waiting more than an hour to be handed to A&E teams last week and about four in 10 (44%) waiting at least 30 minutes.
This compares with 10% waiting more than an hour at this point last year while 23% waited at least half an hour.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak is holding emergency talks with health leaders in an attempt to alleviate the winter crisis in the NHS.
Stephen Sheldon, service manager in North Wales for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We are deeply sorry to hear about Mrs Rolfe’s experience, and know how distressing it will have been for her and those around her as they waited for our help.
“Unfortunately, her experience is not unique, and while that doesn’t lessen the distress for Mrs Rolfe, it is symptomatic of the pressures that all elements of the health and care service in Wales – and across the UK – are facing.
“It is not now uncommon for in excess of 30% of our available crews to be tied up at hospitals waiting to hand over the care of patients.
He added: “We wish Mrs Rolfe all the very best for a speedy recovery, and invite her or her family to contact our Putting Things Right team to afford us the opportunity to listen to their experience in more detail and investigate appropriately.”