Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Woman Dies as Ambulance Technician Chose Not to Respond to 999 Call

An ambulance technician chose not to respond to a 999 call about a woman having what proved to be a fatal heart attack 800 yards from his depot in Moray because he was on a break.

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) said the emergency in Tomintoul was instead answered by a crew based 21 minutes away in Grantown-on-Spey and an air ambulance was also scrambled.

However, 33-year-old Mandy Mathieson died.

The SAS have pointed out that the technician has been suspended while an investigation is carried out.

The Scottish Government said that it expected the investigation to examine whether procedures were properly followed and if there were any lessons to be learned.

But, here's the thing …  

When a paramedic refused to cut short his tea-break to attend a woman suffering from a heart-attack two years ago in Fraserburgh, a spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service told us:

"Under the rules of the UK Government's ‘Agenda for Change NHS’ pay modernisation programme, ambulance crews are entitled to a break during their shift and cannot be disturbed during that period.

"All ambulance services in the UK must comply with these rules, unless staff choose individually to be interrupted during their break."

So, the ambulance technician on duty in Tomintoul was on a rest break and chose not to respond. And in doing so, did nothing wrong.

But, let's face it you wouldn't have the aforesaid agreement in place if you couldn’t provide adequate cover – would you?

Obviously – if you're the SAS - you would. And the result is that people are getting a service that puts lives at risk. 

Incidents like this reflect badly on the SAS and undermine what is otherwise an excellent service that we take for granted and, unfortunately, only appreciate when we use it.  

The problem here is an ill-thought out agreement with the unions, along some people who are perhaps in the wrong job.

Time to get rid of both.