December 9 2013 Latest news:
Andrew Fitchett, Reporter
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Solicitors for the family of a three-month-old baby who died earlier this year has claimed a report into the tragedy outlines a ‘catalogue of errors’ on behalf of the ambulance service as it transported her to hospital.
Bella Hellings, of Thetford, died at West Suffolk Hospital on March 11 after she stopped breathing.
Her mother, Amy Carter, had to wait 26 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, which she says then got lost on the way to the hospital.
An inquest into her death is due to take place on September 26, but her family’s solicitors, Ashton KCJ, claim a report from the East of England Ambulance Trust has already revealed the extent of its failings on the night of the incident.
The solicitors claim the report - which the trust refused to release to the Eastern Daily Press - reveals that:
• The ambulance could not find Ms Carter’s house
• The first ambulance assigned to the call was on another job in Norwich, 30 miles away
• Another vehicle was free five miles away but was not despatched
• The ambulance that was eventually despatched had to refuel on the way
• The air ambulance was despatched with a clinician onboard, but the land ambulance was not notified and had collected the patient by the time the air ambulance arrived
The solicitors also claim the ambulance got lost on its way to the Bury St Edmunds hospital, relying on a satnav for directions despite Ms Carter repeatedly telling them the correct route.
A paramedic was then forced to pick up Miss Hellings and carry her into accident and emergency when the crew could not work the ambulance’s tail-lift in order to use a stretcher.
Sharon Allison, Ms Carter’s lawyer, said: “I see this report as an important first step towards establishing the facts and ensuring a dramatic improvement in the ambulance service.
“It was a catalogue of errors. The report portrays an organisation in a complete shambles.
“Little Bella was one of five patients to die following ambulance delays during March alone. For years it was known there was an alarming problem, but warnings went unheeded.”
Ms Allison added that the trust’s problems appeared to stem from senior management and the board rather than frontline staff.
She said: “Now at last the board have gone and we have new senior managers, so we have to hope that our ambulance service will improve.”
The inquest into Miss Helling’s death is due to take place at Norwich Coroner’s Court. An ambulance service spokesman said: “The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) can confirm that a thorough internal investigation has taken place and the findings have been shared as appropriate ahead of the coroner’s inquest which is being held in Norfolk in September.
“As a Trust, we are in the process of recruiting more frontline staff and getting more ambulances on the road in order to improve our performance for patients living in those areas of most need. This approach is borne out of our turnaround plan published in April and, in effect, by increasing staffing and resources, we can help reduce journey times of crews and ensure that we are responding to patients more quickly.”
The family says it will consider its legal position after the inquest has taken place.
Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, has put her support behind Ms Carter’s calls for the ambulance service to be held accountable.
The MP has written to West Suffolk Hospital and the ambulance trust to question its procedures.