Son says he’s ‘ready to move on’ after hearing apology from man who diverted ambulance away from his dying mum

Ann Walters
Ann Walters
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THE son of a woman who died after an ambulance was diverted when it was only a minute away from her house says he’s ready to move on.

Lawrence Thorpe, 25, said he was pleased with the conclusion given at an inquest into his mum’s death at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court.

Coroner David Horsley concluded 61-year-old Ann Walters died of complications from an atrial septal defect, commonly known as a hole in the heart.

Mr Thorpe, who lives in Southsea, said after the hearing: ‘Coming face to face with the man who stood the ambulance down was somewhat difficult for me to digest.

‘But it was nice of him to admit that he had made a mistake in the decision. It shows some humility.’

Mrs Walters called 111 asking for a doctor on December 28, 2014, at 8.19am, feeling breathless.

But a call handler, suspecting Mrs Walters’s condition was worse than she thought, sent an ambulance to her home in St Piran’s Avenue, Baffins, instead.

Peter Richardson, a clinical support desk practitioner, called her back shortly afterwards, following South Central Ambulance Service (Scas) procedure.

Giving evidence at the inquest, he said: ‘Having heard Mrs Walters wanted to be seen by a doctor rather than an ambulance I stood down the ambulance.

‘She thought she had a chest infection.’

Mr Richardson admitted he’d made the wrong decision when asked by Mr Thorpe.

He arranged for an out-of-hours doctor to contact Mrs Walters within one hour, but this did not happen and she died before anyone could get to her.

Mr Horsley said: ‘It’s tragic to me and I’m sure heart-breaking for her family that an ambulance was so near but so far away.’

Mrs Walters’s heart condition was first identified in 1977 but she repeatedly refused open-heart surgery to fix it. She worsened over the years to the point where it would have been dangerous to operate.

Dr Phillip Strike, consultant cardiologist at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, said when he saw Mrs Walters in 2014 she was in such a fragile state she may have only had ‘weeks to months’ to live.

He said: ‘She was a phenomenally high risk of rapid or sudden death.’

Dr Strike said he doubted the ambulance crew could have saved Mrs Walters if they had got to her.

He said: ‘It seems unlikely that this would have been remedial.’

Although Mr Thorpe lived in London at the time, he had been staying with his mum over Christmas and had last seen her at about 2.30am that morning when he got home after visiting a friend.

They both went to bed soon afterwards and Mr Thorpe spent the day upstairs sleeping and watching films in his bedroom.

He did not see his mum until he came downstairs just before 6pm and found her dead on the floor.

Mr Thorpe called an ambulance, which arrived at 6.10pm and paramedics found that she had been dead for some hours due to congestive cardiac failure, caused by her hole in the heart.

The inquest heard that call volumes to Scas had been extremely high over the Christmas break.

Scas conducted an investigation into the case and found the decision to stand down the ambulance had been ‘flawed’.

The inquest heard that response procedure was changed nationally on January 5 this year so that ambulance dispatches that originated from 111 calls could not be reassessed.

But this change was not made a result of Mrs Walters’s death.