- January 23, 2014
- By Amanda Hopkins
- 0 comments
On 30 December 2013 Norman Lamb MP, minister of state for care and support, called for a shake up of ambulance response times in rural areas following the tragic death of Peter Nelson aged just 26. Peter had returned home from his shift at a local hotel in Blakeney, Norfolk complaining of a headache. When he collapsed on the bathroom floor his parents called an ambulance. Although a paramedic arrived within 15 minutes he had limited resources to do anything. It took 2 hours for an ambulance to arrive and to convey Peter to hospital. He died of a brain haemorrhage shortly after.
Yesterday a coroner found that Fred Pring, a 74 year old from Flintshire, would probably have survived if an ambulance had arrived promptly. Instead, it took 42 minutes to reach Mr Pring by which time he had passed away.
Sadly, these are not two isolated incidents despite there being targets in place to supposedly avoid delays and their consequences. Emergency 999 calls are prioritised into ‘immediately life threatening’ and ‘all other calls’. For the former, the target is for an emergency response to reach the caller within 8 minutes. Where onward transport is required, an ambulance should attend within 19 minutes. For the second category local targets are set. For example, in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, the target of the North East Ambulance Service is to have a paramedic attend within 30 minutes. However, according to The Northern Echo figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request reveal the service failed to meet the target response times on 10 separate occasions in a 12 month period.
The delays are not all caused by lack of resources. At the inquest into Mr Pring’s death, the court was told that 2 ambulances could have been available but were not or could not be used due to operational problems. One such problem identified was the length of time it took to hand over a patient from the ambulance to the A&E department. In a previous incident involving a 3 month old who died whilst waiting for an ambulance, the delays were caused by an ambulance getting lost due to the satnav not being up to date and another one stopping for petrol whilst answering the 999 call. Both of these delays are shocking and so easily avoided.
Sometimes a delay in an ambulance attending may have made no difference to the outcome but it is a patient’s first chance of survival. A person may die as a result of the delay or be in a worse condition than if they had received treatment sooner. I am currently representing a client who suffered a stroke at home. The delay in an ambulance attending has meant that she did not receive treatment quick enough to prevent serious and permanent damage which could have been lessened or prevented with a speedier response.
If you think you have been affected by a delay in emergency response time and you want to discuss this with us please contact our clinical negligence team on 020 7940 4060.