Paramedics’ care fell below the standards expected and led to an avoidable death
In October 2016, John called an ambulance for his wife, Caroline, who was clearly unwell.
When the paramedics arrived, they spent just over an hour with her but failed to recognise symptoms that should have been a cause for concern. These included a high heartbeat and a raised temperature.
Their advice to Caroline was to sleep in a chair and contact the out of hours GP for further advice and treatment.
When Caroline’s condition worsened, John called for an ambulance again.
This time, she was admitted to hospital with possible sepsis.
Unfortunately, it was too late. Caroline died shortly afterwards in hospital.
To understand what went wrong and help minimise the risk of such a tragedy happening to anyone else, John Chandler contacted Elizabeth Wickson, partner and medical negligence expert at Medical Accident Group.
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Caroline died of sepsis that resulted from an injury to one of her fingers. Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection that happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs. If spotted early enough, it is treatable. In this case, it wasn’t spotted early enough.
On John’s behalf, we raised a claim with NHS Resolution against West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.
NHS Resolution admitted breaches of duty of care on behalf of the trust and John received an apology and compensation.
During the first visit from paramedics, it was found that they had failed to spot the injured finger and a possible source of infection. They also failed to recognise possible signs of sepsis. These signs included Caroline’s high heart rate, raised temperature, rapid breathing, reduced oxygen saturation levels and elevated blood glucose levels.
NHS Resolution also admitted that Caroline had not been told about concerns about her symptoms. This meant she could not have made an informed decision when she was asked to agree with the plan to sleep in a chair and contact the out of hours GP if required.
NHS Resolution also admitted failures during the second visit from the ambulance.
Specifically, because of the likelihood of sepsis, Caroline would have met the criteria for critical transfer to hospital under emergency conditions. This would have included a pre-alert priority call to inform the hospital of the imminent arrival of a patient with sepsis and evidence of shock.
When Caroline did arrive at hospital, staff were not informed of the likelihood of sepsis, which delayed her treatment even more.
Overall, NHS Resolution agreed that if Caroline had been admitted to hospital after the first visit from paramedics, she would have survived.
Elizabeth Wickson said: “John was understandably devastated by the traumatic loss of his wife. I was pleased to be able to get him the answers he needed as well as the apology he deserved from West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.
“It is hoped that, by raising these concerns, the trust and individuals concerned will learn from the events and recognise the signs of sepsis going forward.”