Ambulance watch: Service vows to overhaul road accident response in East Anglia

Catherine-Barton-who-died-in-a

The region's ambulance service is overhauling its response to road accidents following the death of a veterinary nurse, whose chances of survival were slashed by the trust's failures.

Consequences of the shortcomings in the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) were exposed in January when an inquest heard how Catherine Barton, 27, from Brandon, died almost two hours after a car crash. Paramedics took 30 minutes to get to the scene near Thetford golf club in August 2011 and waited 90 minutes to get her out of her Ford Ka, by which time it was too late.

Problems within the EEAST have been highlighted in the EDP since October last year through the launch of our Ambulance Watch campaign

And to stop fatal delays happening again, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong wrote to the EEAST with his concerns after the inquest.

They included not providing medical assistance fast enough, not assessing the bride-to-be's injuries properly, not recognising her condition was deteriorating and not intervening to help her.


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Paramedic Fiona Turner was taken off frontline duties in the wake of the accident.

The trust has now responded to the coroner detailing how it has overhauled its response to potentially life-threatening road collisions.

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They include:

- More training for frontline paramedics;

- A manager sent to all traffic accidents to oversee treatment on the scene;

- A 'memorandum of understanding' between the three emergency services outlining who should take responsibility for what;

- A review of ambulance guidelines and policies on responding to serious road accidents.

A letter from EEAST chief executive Andrew Morgan to Mr Armstrong said: 'The trust has undertaken a number of actions that are directly in response to this incident along with others that have an influence on the circumstances to mitigate the risk of a similar incident occurring. A number of these actions are complete or underway.'

Frontline paramedics will be sent back to the classroom to be given more training in trauma, how to assess patients properly and care for them.

Changes already introduced include new equipment and medicines and a clinical co-ordinator in control rooms to make sure the ambulance service is responding properly to call-outs and

The service has also reviewed its guidelines on how to respond to critical road accidents and how to best deal with the information they get from the scene from the fire and police service, who often arrive before paramedics,

As reported in the EDP, a critical care desk (CCD) was also set up in August 2012 which sends out elite medics and air ambulances to the most serious incidents.

Mr Armstrong also asked the trust to consider whether there needed to be changes in ambulance policies on how they respond to traffic collisions.

Responding to the concerns, a manager will now be sent to the roadside of accidents to help make decisions on the scene.

The police, fire and ambulance service have also created a 'memorandum of understanding' so the three agencies work better.

The agreement includes more training together, increased training for fire crews in first aid and improved communication between the different control rooms.

It outlines what responsibilities each emergency service has at the scene and what each control room should be doing.

Mr Armstrong said the responses from the ambulance, police and fire services had been 'detailed, positive and constructive'.

The coroner said he hoped much that 'some real good' would come out of the 'terrible tragedy' of Catherine's death.

He said: 'I hope it will serve as some kind of tribute to a wonderful young woman who lost her life in horrific circumstances and whose prospects of surviving the injuries received as a result of the road traffic collision were substantially reduced by failures in responding appropriately to her situation.'

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