A coroner has slammed an ambulance service after a critically ill pensioner died when she was forced to wait FOUR HOURS to be taken to hospital.
Tragic Rita May Benton, 84, suffered a perforated colon, an infection and eventually a fatal heart attack on February 22 this year.
An inquest heard her husband first called 999 just before 6pm on February 21 because his wife was crippled with stomach pain.
The call was graded low priority and transferred to NHS Direct but the family were not informed that the case was terminated at 6.53pm and no ambulance was even sent.
Rita’s worried son-in-law Martin Worley, 54, then made a second 999 call at 6.57pm when her condition worsened.
However, no medics were available from under-fire East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) to meet the required 20 minute response time.
An EMAS telephone assessment an HOUR later finally upgraded the response to immediate.
Shockingly, by then their only available ambulance was sent from Grimsby, Lincs., – 36 MILES away.
Paramedics finally turned up at Rita’s home in Coningsby, Lincs., at 8.51pm before leaving for hospital at 9.28pm.
She arrived at Lincoln County Hospital at 10.09pm but suffered a heart attack in the early hours of the morning and could not be resuscitated.
A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as peritonitis following ischaemic colitis with perforation – an infection from a perforated colon.
Recording a narrative verdict at the inquest, which was held in Lincoln on Thursday, assistant deputy coroner Paul Smith said he would write to the government and local heath bosses to demand a better ambulance service across the country.
He said: “I’m concerned that as far as humanly possible the events of that evening are never repeated.
“It is difficult to resist criticism that there were clearly unacceptable delays in getting this lady to hospital.
“It is not possible to say, on the balance of probabilities, whether she would have survived had she been admitted to hospital earlier.
“I accept resources are finite but the situation that evening in my judgment was not acceptable.”
Rita’s GP, Amos Ramon, told the inquest: “Every minute was precious. This lady needed to be in hospital.”
After the hearing Rita’s son-in-law Martin, from Tattershall, Lincs., fumed: “I’m absolutely disgusted at how long it took them to get her to hospital.
“Even the surgeon said that if they had got her to hospital quicker they might have been able to do something.
“If they’re having to send ambulances from Grimsby to Coningsby, that’s not a service.”
The inquest heard that by 8pm on February 21, 12 patients in east Lincolnshire were kept waiting for emergency ambulances.
EMAS blamed delays on a higher than expected number of 999 calls, a shortage of available ambulances and response cars and difficult hospital handovers.
Spokesman Phil Morris said: “We have recently begun introducing the changes detailed in our Being the Best improvement programme and this will make a significant contribution to improving our performance in Lincolnshire.
“It covers issues such as revising our staff rotas to make sure our resource levels match demand patterns and a management restructure to improve communication as well as more support for staff.””
Earlier in the year it was announced that the EMAS was to be fined £3.5 million by the Government after missing national targets for reaching patients involved in life-threatening emergencies for the third successive year.
Figures revealed in February that the service is now the worst performing trust in the UK and was branded ‘not fit for purpose’.