A DISTRAUGHT son who found his mother dead in her living room wants to know why help was sent 12 hours after she had made a call to a medical helpline.
Ann Walters, 61, had a hole in her heart and lived at her home in St Piran’s Avenue, Baffins, Portsmouth, where she died from heart failure.
Her son Lawrence Thorpe, 24, found his mother on the floor at 6pm, but when he checked her phone log he discovered she had called the NHS 111 line at 8.25am. An out-of-hours GP eventually turned up at 8.30pm.
Mr Thorpe then learnt that although his mother’s call had been categorised as an emergency, an ambulance was sent but then turned back when it was only four minutes away, following instructions from the NHS 111 service.
Teacher Lawrence said: ‘Knowing there was an ambulance minutes away from reaching my mum, I believed it could have saved her life, even if it was only for an hour so my sister Felicity could have had a chance to say goodbye.’
South Central Ambulance Service, which runs NHS 111, has now launched two investigations – one to find out why the ambulance was sent back and why it took so long for an out-of-hours GP to attend.
Mr Thorpe added: ‘At about 8.30pm, an out-of-hours GP came to the house to see my mum.
‘Obviously we told him what had happened and he said he was called at 4.45pm to see my mum, but because of a high workload could not get to her until 8.30pm.’
Scas said it does not know why an earlier ambulance was cancelled, but Mr Thorpe has been told that as a result the phone operator involved has been suspended.
He added: ‘I’m infuriated that she called for help and that no help came.
‘Instead I was left to find my mother dead and my sister, who hadn’t spoken to my mum for several years, was robbed of her chance to say goodbye.
‘I want to share this story so that in future, others may not have to suffer a similar fate.
‘At least that way, her possibly-preventable death will not be in vain.’
The incident happened on December 28.
A Scas spokesman said: ‘The original call was answered and assessed by the NHS 111 service and was quickly passed to the 999 service given the nature of the call and the information given.
‘A full investigation is under way focusing on all aspects of our response.
‘We take our response very seriously and we would like to apologise to the family for the distress caused as a result of this regrettable incident and would like to offer our sincere condolences. We are unable to comment further.’
Patient watchdog group supports family
THE family of a woman found dead almost 10 hours after making a call for help have been getting support from a patient watchdog group.
Lawrence Thorpe and his sister Felicity have spoken to Healthwatch Portsmouth.
A spokesman said it is working with the family.
He said: ‘While we cannot comment on individual cases, Healthwatch Portsmouth would welcome greater clarity for residents on what the NHS 111 service can and should provide, particularly in cases of emergency.
‘We are in the process of following up the NHS 111 complaints procedure.’