Burnley ‘heart attack’ man to sue over ambulance wait

Damien Andrews, long wait for ambulance.
Damien Andrews, long wait for ambulance.

A BURNLEY man, who was left waiting over an hour for paramedics to arrive when he collapsed in the street with a suspected heart attack, has received an official apology from the North-West Ambulance Service.

But Mr Damien Andrews (40) said this week he plans to take legal action against the North-West Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

He told the Express: “I am glad they have accepted responsibility for what happened and I have received an apology but I plan to take legal action as I want to make sure this does not happen again, to me or anyone else.”

And just five days later Mr Andrews endured a six-hour wait for an ambulance to arrive and take him from Burnley’s Urgent Care Centre to the Royal Blackburn Hospital after he was diagnosed with unstable angina. In the end Mr Andrews was so fed up he discharged himself and got a taxi home.

Mr Andrews added: “It has been a very upsetting experience all round and not helped my health at all.”

Mr Andrews, who moved from Halifax to Burnley in February, rang for an ambulance when he started suffering severe chest pains outside the town’s bus station at 8pm on Tuesday, June 22nd. But it took just over an hour for the ambulance to arrive and attend to unemployed Mr Andrews who has suffered two previous heart attacks, one in 2010 and the second in January this year.

The delay was caused because the call was handled incorrectly, Fiona Buckley, who is Head or Risk and Safety at the North-West Ambulance Service, explained in a letter of apology to Mr Andrews, of Cronkshaw Street.

Mrs Buckley explained an audit revealed the delay was caused by an error made by the call taker. The incident was incorrectly categorised as “Green 2” which is billed as serious but not immediately life threatening when it should have been listed as “Red 2” which is prioritised as immediately life threatening and 75% of these calls should receive a response within eight minutes.

Mrs Buckley said when Mr Andrews made a second call for an ambulance around 8-30pm and the call handler asked if his condition had worsened, he said it was the same so it was decided there was no need to re-enter the triaging system.

Mrs Buckley said: “I would like to offer my sincere apologies for this error which resulted in the crew arriving at 9.06pm. This matter has since been addressed with the relevant individual by the Emergency Control Centre Training Department, ensuring learning takes place following this complaint to the Trust.”

Mrs Buckley said she was “very sorry” for the delay Mr Andrews experienced at the Urgent Care Centre but pointed out the Trust was responding to a “high volume” of emergency calls. She said: “The Trust received a total of 1,159 emergency calls on that day within Cumbria and Lancashire area which is 64 more than anticipated.

“Between the hours of 8pm and 3am there were 306 emergency calls and 150 of these were within East Lancashire alone.The Emergency Control Centre manager also noted there were 24 emergency calls awaiting allocation at midnight, almost half of which related to the East Lancashire area. In such circumstances ambulances must be prioritised to emergency calls in consideration of those patients whose conditions present an immediate threat to life.”

A spokesman for the North-West Ambulance Service said “We have investigated the matter fully, and shared our findings with Mr Andrews. We take all complaints very seriously, and are sorry that Mr Andrews is dissatisfied with our response.”