Apology ordered as address mix-up delays ambulance

A couple waited 24 mins for an ambulance despite living 2 mins from station. Picture: John Devlin
A couple waited 24 mins for an ambulance despite living 2 mins from station. Picture: John Devlin
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AMBULANCE chiefs have been ordered to apologise after paramedics took 24 minutes to reach a dying patient – from a station only two minutes away.

The Scottish Government Ombudsman upheld complaints from the patient’s wife that the delay had been unreasonable, and also criticised the ambulance service for the “unacceptable and insensitive” response after she initially raised her concerns.

Although the exact location of the incident has been kept secret by the Ombudsman as the family of the patient who died do not want to be identified, it occurred in the Lothian region in the early hours of October 15, 2010.

Since then, the wife of the man told the watchdog that she remained “extremely distressed” about the ambulance delay and that she could not move on until she received “a clear explanation of what went wrong and reassurance that it would not happen again”.

The investigation found that the woman, referred to as Mrs C in the report, called an ambulance at 3.39am after she was woken by her husband making a “very loud noise”.

The ambulance was sent immediately but had still not arrived 20 minutes later despite the couple only living two minutes from the station.

The ambulance crew’s computer system could not find the stricken man’s home. It emerged later that the address was not correctly registered. The call taker, who was “relatively new”, did not log details of the location properly.

A warning to highlight the correct location did flash up on the system, but it was deleted almost immediately. After further details were obtained from the patient’s wife, paramedics arrived at 4.03am – 24 minutes after they were mobilised. The patient died that day, although an expert said they believed the delay would not have changed the outcome.

The Ombudsman, Jim Martin, said: “The failures by the service led to a significant personal injustice to Mrs C in that the delay exacerbated what was a very traumatic experience. I am concerned that the factors that caused this situation to arise have not been fully addressed.”

The Ombudsman has recommended ambulance chiefs issue a full apology and report back on what additional support had been provided to less experienced staff.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We are implementing all of the recommendations in the report and will be making contact with the patient’s family to offer a full apology.”