Hartlepool man died after waiting two hours for ambulance

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A MAN died after he lay on his bathroom floor for two hours waiting for an ambulance despite seven desperate 999 calls by his family.

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly branded the death of William Gouldburn, 73, as a “sad consequence” of a lack of ambulance resources.

William Gouldburn with wife Pamela

William Gouldburn with wife Pamela

Mr Donnelly said the life of much-loved Mr Gouldburn might have been saved if an ambulance had reached him sooner.

But despite numerous calls by his frantic family for an ambulance, one did not reach him until Mr Gouldburn had gone into cardiac arrest.

Ambulance bosses admitted at the inquest into the death of retired special needs teacher Mr Gouldburn it does not have enough resources to meet demand.

Mr Donnelly said: “The consequence of that would seem to be that cases such as Mr Gouldburn are likely to be a sad consequence of the lack of resources.

“It would appear to be a consequence of stretched resources, perhaps doing the best they can, but people are not receiving the service they might feel entitled to occasionally.”

Lynn Corrigan, a dispatch manager for the North East Ambulance Service said told the inquest that on the day Mr Gouldburn’s fell in his home they were experiencing a high level of urgent calls.

She added ambulance drivers hit by delays in admitting patients to North Durham hospital due to a lack of available beds.

Mr Donnelly asked her: “Is what I’m hearing you don’t have resources to meet demand?”

Mrs Corrigan said: “Yes, that’s correct. It is a national problem.”

After a two day inquest at Hartlepool Coroner’s Court, Mr Donnelly ruled that Mr Gouldburn died of natural causes as he had an underlying heart disease.

But Mr Donnelly said his death was aggravated by a “lack of timely and appropriate medical intervention”.

He said: “Had there been more ambulances available the outcome might have been different.”

Mr Gouldburn collapsed in his bathroom at around 10.20am on April 21 last year.

A few days earlier he had come out of hospital after surgery to his shoulder.

Earlier that morning he had complained of feeling unwell and his wife Pamela, 70, rang for a doctor who visited Mr Gouldburn just after 9am at home in Meadows Walk, Hartlepool.

Dr Sandhya Pardeep could find nothing seriously wrong with Mr Gouldburn but due to his lack of mobility and the frailty of his wife, Dr Pardeep offered him the chance to go to hospital which he refused.

After his fall a carer rang 999 at 10.32am and said Mr Gouldburn had collapsed, could not move and said a doctor had advised he be admitted to hospital.

Mr Gouldburn’s condition was not then deemed by the ambulance service to be a “red” emergency and was allocated a 60-minute response time.

But an ambulance did not arrive until after 12pm and was a St John vehicle manned by less fully-trained medics.

Finally an ambulance with an eight-minute response time was sent when Mr Gouldburn’s condition worsened shortly before midday.

A few minutes later a regular ambulance and rapid response car arrived.

Despite trying for 10 minutes to save Mr Gouldburn’s life he was pronounced dead shortly after.

Mr Donnelly added: “My concern is the time it takes for deployment and when that does attend it is manned by a charity.”

Pathologist Dr Jan Lowe told the inquest Mr Gouldburn’s heart condition was made worse by the added stress of being on the bathroom floor for so long.

Mr Gouldburn’s family hit out at the ambulance service’s failure to grasp the seriousness of the situation until it was too late and the shortage of ambulances.

They said in a statement: “This should never happen again to anyone. We simply want recognition from the trust that a mistake was made, and that the trust failed a fantastic man.

“He gave his life to helping others and the trust failed him in his moment of need.

“We hope they will make sure as best they can this will never happen again to another family in Hartlepool.”