A devastated son wants to know why he found his mother dead in her living room, when she had called a medical helpline to request help over 9 hours beforehand.
Ann Walters, 61, had a hole in her heart and lived at her home in St Piran’s Avenue, Baffins, Portsmouth, where she died from heart failure. Her son Lawrence Thorpe, 24, came in and found his mother on the floor at 6pm, he had checked her phone log and he discovered she had called the NHS 111 line at 8.25am. After a number of hours it was an out-of-hours GP that eventually turned up at 8.30pm.
Mr Thorpe then found out that the phone call his mother made was in fact categorized as an emergency, and following instructions from the NHS 111 service, an ambulance had been sent out but then turned back when it was only four minutes away.
Lawrence, who is a Teacher, said: “Knowing there was an ambulance minutes away from reaching my mum, I believed it could have saved her life, even if it was only for an hour so my sister Felicity could have had a chance to say goodbye.”
Two investigations have now been launched by South Central Ambulance Service, which runs NHS 111, one of which is to find out why the ambulance was sent back and why it took so long for an out-of-hours GP to attend. Mr Thorpe added: “At about 8.30pm, an out-of-hours GP came to the house to see my mum. “Obviously we told him what had happened and he said he was called at 4.45pm to see my mum, but because of a high workload could not get to her until 8.30pm.”
Scas said it’s unsure why an earlier ambulance was cancelled, but Mr Thorpe has been informed that as a result of the incident, the phone operator that took the call has been suspended. He added: “I’m infuriated that she called for help and that no help came. “Instead I was left to find my mother dead and my sister, who hadn’t spoken to my mum for several years, was robbed of her chance to say goodbye. “I want to share this story so that in future, others may not have to suffer a similar fate.
“At least that way, her possibly-preventable death will not be in vain.”
A SCAS (South Central Ambulance Services) spokesman said: “The original call was answered and assessed by the NHS 111 service and was quickly passed to the 999 service given the nature of the call and the information given.
“A full investigation is under way focusing on all aspects of our response. “We take our response very seriously and we would like to apologise to the family for the distress caused as a result of this regrettable incident and would like to offer our sincere condolences. We are unable to comment further.”
Another case of a woman found dead almost 10 hours after making a call for help has been getting support from a patient watchdog group. Lawrence Thorpe and his sister Felicity have spoken to Healthwatch Portsmouth. A spokesman said that they are working with the family: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, Healthwatch Portsmouth would welcome greater clarity for residents on what the NHS 111 service can and should provide, particularly in cases of emergency.
“We are in the process of following up the NHS 111 complaints procedure.”