Ambulance Watch: MP takes up case of Thetford baby who died after ambulance crews got lost

Bella Hellings, who died after paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service took 30 minutes

Bella Hellings, who died after paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service took 30 minutes to respond to a 999 call. - Credit: Archant

An MP has written to health chiefs to express her concerns about the death of a three-month-old baby.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

Bella Hellings from Thetford died on March 11 after her mother Amy Carter waited 26 minutes for an ambulance.

As reported in the Eastern Daily Press on April 26, the ambulance then got lost on the way to the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and young Bella died.

After being contacted by Miss Carter and her solicitor, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss met them in Westminster two weeks ago.

Ms Truss said: 'This is an incredibly sad case. My thoughts and feelings are with Amy and I think she has been incredibly brave.

'There are a number of questions that need answering by the various medical agencies involved in this case, and after meeting Amy I have taken these issues up with them.

'It is vital that public services are accountable to people when things like this happen.'

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The MP has written to the chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) questioning the procedures around their response, lack of appropriate staff training and staff morale.

She has also written to the chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group as well as the chief executive of the West Suffolk Hospital asking about the decision to not provide Miss Carter with medical equipment for her daughter.

Miss Carter, 24, said: 'No mother should have to go through this. You shouldn't have to bury your own child.'

Her solicitor, Sharon Allison who is a medical negligence specialist with Thetford-based Ashton KCJ, said her firm was pursuing 'a number' of cases against the EEAST and had seen a rise in complaints in the last few months about both response times and medical treatment.

She said: 'These are not isolated incidents. Because of the work we do we notice trends and the trend is one of complaints.'

Cases include a woman in her twenties who lives on the Norfolk-Suffolk border who was allegedly told by a paramedic to visit the GP when she was suffering a stroke.

Mrs Allison said: 'He (the paramedic) was at the end of a very long shift. He said he was pleased this was easy and said go and see your GP and she ended up having a full blown stroke.'

The woman survived but has complained to the ambulance service.

Mrs Allison added: 'This shouldn't have been allowed to go on for so long. How on earth could we have got into this situation?

'The plight of the ambulance service has been known for months, if not years.

'We have reports which register alarm at shortcomings in staff numbers from as long ago as 2011.

'Yet the same excuses are still being trotted out.

'The service was warned of dire consequences if it didn't recruit more staff. It refused to do so. Patients died. Then it says it will recruit after all because it has the money available.'

The EEAST announced a turnaround plan in April which included improving its poor response times by recruiting 350 staff, sickness absence targets for staff and reducing their reliance on private ambulances.

A spokesman for the trust said the number of complaints it had received had dramatically fallen in the last three months from 109 in March to 84 in April and 62 in May.

It is conducting its own investigation into Bella's death which is ongoing.

An inquest has also been opened by Norfolk's coroner.

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: 'We have received Elizabeth Truss' letter and have begun a thorough investigation to understand exactly what has happened in this case. We will work closely with Miss Carter and her MP to answer any questions they may have and will feedback our findings once our review is complete.

'We would like to take this opportunity to extend our condolences to Miss Carter and her family.'

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