17 November 2021

Father dies with suspected heart attack after 70-minute ambulance wait

17 November 2021

A 70-year-old man from south-east London died of a suspected heart attack after an ambulance took almost 70 minutes to respond to his daughter’s 999 call.

The London Ambulance Service has said it is investigating their response to the incident on November 1, which took more than 50 minutes longer than the target average for such cases.

The patient’s daughter Emma, whose name has been changed as she did not want to be identified, arrived at his home in south-east London before the ambulance and delivered CPR to her father for around 10 minutes after he stopped breathing.

His other daughter Jane, also not her real name, told the PA news agency they wish to highlight the incident to ensure “no-one else goes through this trauma”.

His last words to (Emma) was that 'this is the most excruciating pain I've ever had' and she now has to live with that.

“The emotional trauma of witnessing this and desperately trying to save his life, knowing he was seriously let down, is overwhelming,” Jane, who is in her 30s, said.

“His last words to (Emma) was that ‘this is the most excruciating pain I’ve ever had’ and she now has to live with that.

“Nothing will bring him back but we will do all we can to make sure no-one else loses their life unnecessarily and no-one else goes through this trauma.”

Ambulances in England aim to respond to Category 2 calls, such as major burns, epilepsy and strokes, in an average time of 18 minutes.

Emergency targets dictate that 90% of such calls should be responded to within 40 minutes.

The incident comes amid record ambulance delays.

The latest data from October shows an average response time to such calls of 53 minutes and 54 seconds, up from 45 minutes and 30 seconds in September.

Average ambulance response time in England for category 2 (emergency) incidents (PA Graphics)

The man himself made the first 999 call, also informing his daughters of his condition, and Emma arrived from her home approximately two miles away shortly afterwards.

The daughters made several further emergency calls, in which they said they were told an ambulance would be with them “within 41 minutes from the first call”.

He stopped breathing an hour after 999 was first called, at which point another emergency call was made while Emma gave her father CPR and the incident was redefined as Category 1 for the most serious incidents.

An ambulance then arrived shortly afterwards, 69 minutes after the first call was made.

“Had they arrived earlier within the right timescales he would not only have had the most important medical attention and treatment a lot earlier, but he also wouldn’t have been in pain for so long and not so scared as he’d have known he was getting medical help”, Jane said.

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the patient’s family and friends during this difficult time and we send them our deepest condolences.

“We are looking into how we responded to the patient, and would encourage the family to reach out to our patient experiences team so we can support them in reviewing what happened.”

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