Ambulance service chief’s apology to family of man who died after waiting two hours for help


AN ambulance chief apologised to the family of William Gouldburn for not getting to him sooner.

Tom Howard, head of the North East Ambulance Service’s contact centre, admitted Mr Gouldburn did not receive the level of care he should have.

But he echoed what colleagues said about the lack of resources the ambulance trust has.

The two-day inquest was attended by Mr Gouldburn’s stepdaughter Joanne Dobson and her husband Colin Dobson.

Mr Howard said to them: “Mr Gouldburn didn’t receive the level of care that he should have done. The 60 minute target was not met.”

He added: “It is a resource issue which we have already had explained.

“It is very unfortunate, and I’m really sorry it has happened.”

But he said even some of the most urgent calls do not meet the national 75 per cent time response target.

Lynn Corrigan, a dispatch manager for the ambulance trust, told the inquest it had approached its commissioners for more crews and said a recruitment drive was under way so there could be more paramedics on the road.

She also added that since Mr Gouldburn’s death the trust had changed its rotas so that there are more fully crewed ambulances available by reducing the number of paramedics in smaller rapid response cars.

The inquest heard a lot of detail about how calls to the 111 and 999 numbers are handled by the ambulance trust call centre in Newcastle.

Calls to 111 are intended for less urgent cases that do not require an ambulance.

Mr Gouldburn’s family made calls to both numbers after his collapse at home on April 21 last year.

But the inquest heard that there was nothing in the call handler’s computer system to flag up that the family had called before.

And assistant call centre manager Geraldine Hope said although calls to both numbers are processed in a similar way, the two systems are not linked so handlers taking 999 calls will not know if 111 has taken a call for the same patient.

Coroner Malcolm Donnelly described it as “a big gap” and Ms Hope said a request had been made to link the two systems.

But in his findings, Mr Donnelly said the main issue was the fact the ambulance did not attend within 60 minutes.

He said he found no complacency in the way the calls were handled.