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Man froze to death waiting for an ambulance, whistleblower claims

PUBLISHED: 17:52 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:27 20 January 2018

Picture: Archant Library.

Picture: Archant Library.

A senior whistleblower within the region’s ambulance trust has claimed up to 80 people could have died or come to harm because of delays over the Christmas and New Year period.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal, the whistleblower said 40 incidents had already been identified in an ongoing internal review, including one on December 27 in Lowestoft where a patient apparently froze to death while waiting 16 hours for a response.

But the whistleblower expected that number to double when all cases from December and January were taken into account.

READ MORE: Extra funding will provide additional GP appointments to help ease winter pressures

In 19 cases identified so far the patient had died, the whistleblower said.

This included one patient in Norwich who waited seven hours after a cardiac arrest.

And a patient in Essex who developed pressure sores during a wait of nearly 13 hours following a fall.

Earlier this week Norwich South MP Clive Lewis raised the issues in the House of Commons.

READ MORE: Whistleblower claims 20 people died where ambulances were late

Today he said he was “shocked and disgusted” at the incidents.

Former health minister Norman Lamb said he had met with the whistleblower and would be writing to the health secretary.

East of England Ambulance Trust told the HSJ: “The trust had plans in place, however experienced extreme levels of demand over the new year period in particular. The trust was unable to respond to a very small number of the 50,000 calls we handled over a 15 day period as quickly as we would like. The trust is undertaking a rigorous analysis of that small proportion of calls. Where any suspected cases of potential harm are identified then the trust will exercise its duty of candour to notify patients or their families.

READ MORE: Full hospitals, long A*E waits, and ambulances diverted - new NHS figures show extent of pressure on Norfolk hospitals over Christmas and New Year

“It is best practice to always review the effectiveness of any plans and the trust will be doing that. Depending on any preliminary insight, the trust will invite an independent review of our decision making process. The trust has also requested a system-wide review of these periods of high demand and lost capacity.

“The trust is on the public record stating that it has a gap between funded capacity and demand. It is good financial planning to ensure that the trust is in a position to hire any additional resources that may become available across the months of January, February and March. The trust is well placed to buy such resources where available.

READ MORE: A&E bosses warn of ‘intolerable’ safety risks as visitors describe “heartbreaking” staff pressures at N&N

“Demand has now lessened and while our festive plan has come to an end, our winter plan remains in force and ready to respond to the expected peak in the flu driven demand. We continue to urge everyone who has not yet done so, especially those who are in the risk groups, to have a flu vaccine as early as possible.”

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