NHS bosses have apologised to the widow of an 89-year-old stroke victim who died after being turned away from hospital because it was too LATE on a Friday afternoon.
John Mallalieu was just minutes from treatment when an ambulance was diverted 14 miles because staff had gone HOME for the weekend.
Nurses told wife Ruth 84, that her husband could not be admitted to the stroke unit because they would be arriving after 5pm and a consultant was “going away for the weekend.”
As a result the frail pensioner was left in intensive care at Nottingham’s City Hospital – after being turned away from Kings Mill Hospital, in Mansfield, Notts.
The delay meant the grandfather-of three was not seen for almost an hour after his stroke and he died two days later on December 8 after suffering a blood clot to the brain.
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust issued an apology to his devastated widow.
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They blamed the blunder on “organisational issues” at the 999 control centre but admitted the retired vet had been “failed” by the NHS.
Ambulance bosses also agreed there were “unacceptable delays” in transferring him to the right hospital for treatment and claimed lessons had been learned from the tragedy.
But his heartbroken wife of 57 years yesterday branded the apology “not good enough” and said she was still disgusted by their actions.
Mrs Mallalieu, from Caunton, Notts., said: “Of course I’m not happy – they keep apologising, but that doesn’t really help.
“They went through their response with me and said their service wasn’t good enough.
“I’m still disgusted. You don’t want to see someone else go through this.
“It could have been different if they were on time. It was heartbreaking to go through.
“It’s hard living without him when you have been together for 58 years.”
At the time furious Ruth accused the hospital of treating her husband like an animal after an ambulance was forced to take the 25-minute detour, which took almost hour.
She added: “My husband was a vet and he never turned away a cat, a dog or a horse at weekends.
“He worked 24/7 and for four years he never had a holiday.
“He paid his taxes all of his life and when he most needed the NHS they have let him down.”
NHS bosses launching their formal investigation, because the stroke department at King’s Mill is supposed to stay open until 6pm.
The hospital said that had Mr Mallalieu arrived at the hospital it would have taken over an hour to ‘thrombolyse’ him, which would have taken them past the contracted opening times for the department.
Thrombolysis is an injection that can break down of blood clots, which in Mr Mallalieu’s case was later found to have caused the stroke.
Richard Henderson, Director of Operations at EMAS said: “It is clear that our service was not to the high standard that it should have been on the day, and I am very sorry about this.
“I have met with Mrs Mallalieu and members of her family, and I have apologised to them in person and explained the changes we have since made to improve our ambulance services.
“EMAS is a learning and improving organisation. We care about the experience of our patients and their carers, and we always act on what they tell us.
“I would like to assure local people that since this happened in December 2013, we have made many changes to improve our services.
“We have 110 more front-line staff on duty compared with last year, more ambulances on the road, and improved arrangements in dispatch so that our staff are better trained and supported.
“We have been meeting our emergency response targets since the middle of March 2014, and every day we are getting to even more patients, more quickly.”
EMAS director of operations Richard Henderson added: “I, along with the chief executive (Sue Noyes), went to the home address of Mrs Mallalieu and apologised in person unreservedly.
“We have made changes to the way we operate and work in partnership with Sherwood Forest Hospitals to make sure there’s no repeat of this.”
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs King’s Mill, has admitted officials should have told the ambulance service to take Mr Mallalieu to City Hospital in the first place.
Paul O’Connor, chief executive of Sherwood Forest Hospitals, added: “It is clear that Mr Mallalieu was failed by the NHS and on behalf of Sherwood Forest Hospitals I offer my sincere apologies for the distress caused.
“We are always seeking to improve our services so that our patients experience the very best care and we have now installed a direct telephone line to the stroke unit.
“Ambulance crews speak directly to our stroke team for all suspected strokes, which will improve the speed of communication around accepting or diverting patients.
“It will also allow our specialist staff to offer advice and guidance to ambulance crews.”