Ambulance blue light

Coroners Show Red Card at Ambulance Blue Light Responses

A report has revealed that Coroners across the country have criticised ambulance trusts for failings which have led to 35 reported deaths in the last 5 years.

The data has been taken from “Prevention of Future Death” reports, which Coroners are obliged to file in circumstances where NHS and other health organisations have contributed to a patients death in some way. The Report highlights the failings made so that those organisation can learn from their mistake and prevent reoccurrence in the future.

Ambulance Services are very large, covering areas that include thousands, if not millions, of patients. Increasing demand on services without a correlating increase in budgets has led to significant strains on those services which lead to delays in treatment or errors by 999 and other staff. The report shows that the following errors were responsible for the 35 deaths in question:

  • Staff shortages;
  • Errors by call handlers;
  • Poor care being provided by ambulance staff attending scenes;
  • Delayed handovers of patients to A&E.

In addition to the above, delays in ambulances reaching patients also featured in 21 of the 35 reported cases. Delays in arrival can arise due to unavailability of ambulances at the time of the call, allocation of inappropriate services to different calls and errors in identifying the danger to the patients leading to logging high priority calls as low priority.

In one of his Notices involving a delay of 6 hours for an ambulance to arrive, the Coroner for South Manchester, John Pollard, said “When I questioned the ambulance service manager about this she was very candid and accepted that the problem is that they do not have sufficient ambulances or staff available and that they are working ‘at 100%’ all the time”.

Whilst many may blame a lack of funding for ambulance services, which might restrict an increase in the number of ambulances, paramedics and better training of staff, some blame the problems faced by the wider NHS as the cause of ambulance failings. The shadow health minister, Justin Madder MP, has said “In England, A&E delays have reached record levels and more and more ambulances are having to queue outside of hospital because there aren’t any free beds available”.

Clarke Willmott’s specialist clinical negligence lawyers act for Claimant’s in many cases against ambulance trusts each year. Whilst these most often relate to delays in an ambulance’s arrival, examples also include an ambulance service’s inability to seek specialist treatment advice from hospital based doctors, misdiagnosis at the scene leading to the patient not being taken to hospital at all and delays caused by ambulance crews not following the appropriate protocol or pathways when transferring patients to hospital.

If you or anyone you know wishes to discuss a clinical negligence claim, contact one of our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892. For more information on why you should choose Clarke Willmott, click here.