Paramedic tells tribunal that she ‘felt alone’ at scene of fatal crash near Thetford

Paramedic Fiona Turner after the Catherine Barton inquest. Photo: Bill Smith

Paramedic Fiona Turner after the Catherine Barton inquest. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

A paramedic broke down in tears as she described how she 'felt alone' at the scene of a road traffic collision on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, which resulted in the death of a driver and injury to three others.

Catherine Barton died at the scene of a head-on accident on the B1107 in 2011.

Catherine Barton died at the scene of a head-on accident on the B1107 in 2011. - Credit: Archant

Medic Fiona Turner is accused of misconduct by failing to carry out basic checks on 27-year-old Catherine Barton on August 5 2011 and is alleged to have not prioritised resources or managed the scene in a timely manner as the first paramedic to arrive following the head-on crash.

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The paramedic today admitted to a tribunal panel that she was out of her depth and should have asked for more help after attending the scene of the two vehicle collision on the B1107 near Thetford, which occurred at about 10pm.

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Miss Turner was the first qualified paramedic to attend around 30 minutes after the crash between a Ford Ka and Volkswagen Golf car and had to wait another 30 minutes for another paramedic to arrive. By the time a critical care paramedic and emergency doctor had arrived, Miss Barton had stopped breathing.

The medic, who joined the East of England Ambulance Service as a student in 2005 and qualified in 2009, told a conduct and competence committee that she felt 'exhausted and stressed' by the incident two years ago, which she attended with a student medic. She said that when she arrived she found that there were three time-critical patients.

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'I have attended a variety of different incidents, but I have attended nothing as severe and nothing with this many casualties. I have never been first on the scene of a collision. I drove to the scene and pulled up the handbrake and we looked at each other and said it was a mess. I said to my colleague to phone control for another officer or anyone you can get,' she said.

Miss Turner is accused by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) of failing to assess and monitor the patient adequately and did not undertake appropriate intervention such as basic ABC. The HCPC claims that the paramedic failed to respond appropriately to a concern raised by a firefighter that the patient may have stopped breathing, and she did not organise and prioritise resources on the scene. It is also claimed that the medic did not keep an adequate record of assessment and did not instigate an attempt at resuscitation on the patient until she was in the ambulance.

Miss Turner denied accusations by firefighters on the scene that she failed to do basic checks on the patient's airways, breathing and circulation. She added that in hindsight she should have declared a major incident where 'requirement outstripped resources.'

The medic said that she did not ask for Miss Barton to be removed from her car immediately because she wanted to wait for a doctor because she was worried that the release of pressure from her trapped legs could have caused a cardiac arrest.

By the time the driver was removed from the car between 11.39pm and 11.46pm, Miss Barton had stopped breathing. She was declared dead at the scene at 12.22am.

'I was devastated. I was left out there and I felt alone. I cried when the patient died because I did not think we had done enough. I could not control the number of vehicles. I was so exhausted and stressed. It was beyond anything I have ever experienced.'

'Something in a paramedic always tries to keep going. I'm a paramedic and in facing all of that I tried to keep going,' she said.

Miss Turner self-referred herself to the HCPC after the East of England Ambulance Service began disciplinary proceedings following the incident. The paramedic, who has worked for a private ambulance firm for the last six months, told the hearing that she had undergone a number of self-funded training courses in advanced life support and pre-hospital life support courses to improve her skills.

The tribunal continues.

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