East Midlands Ambulance Service launches investigation


East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has launched an investigation into the deaths of 13 patients.

Delayed diagnosis

The 13 deaths are among 27 major incidents over the past year and EMAS Chief executive Phil Milligan said: "The way we operate now is simply not delivering the performance that local people deserve and national Government expects".

The deaths include:

  • A man dying after waiting 8 hours for an ambulance crew
  • A 76-year-old person who died after waiting 4 hours for an ambulance that never came
  • A lady who fell on the floor and died from a broken neck because she was "not suitably immobilised" by a first aider sent to deal with the emergency
  • An obese patient who died after a specialist ambulance vehicle due to collect the person broke down last September

Police are also involved and are investigating the death of widow Margaret Allsopp, 75, who was killed when an ambulance taking her to Boston's Pilgrim Hospital crashed in Spilsby, Lincs. Officers are also investigating a second incident when paramedics were called to a 44-year-old found dead in a bath after a heart attack.

A recent report found that EMAS was bottom of a national league table on response times.

The report comes a week after the chairwoman of East of England Ambulance Service which has been under fire for failed targets and response times has resigned from her post. East of England Ambulance Service was last week ordered to improve after failing in its care and welfare target with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It is the first time an ambulance trust anywhere in the country has been found to be failing on this measure.

The argument is that the ambulance service has been the victim of cuts in crews and vehicles which will impact on response times. Staff at Yorkshire Ambulance Service intends to strike in a dispute over £46 million cost-cutting plans and union de-recognition.

However, even if an ambulance is dispatched and arrives in a timely manner, mistakes can and do happen.

It may be the case that there is a failure by the ambulance crew to carry out a proper assessment upon their arrival, and a failure to appreciate the significance of the presenting symptoms. For example, dismissing a vaginal bleed in pregnancy which may indicate a placental abruption and a failure to take immediate action may result in the baby suffering severe cerebral palsy and requiring 24 hour care. Alternatively, there may be a delay in recognising a cardiac arrest within a reasonable period of time and a failure to provide resuscitative and life support treatment on a timely basis.

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