The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) has been ordered to apologise after the partner of a patient who died of cardiac arrest was asked to give them CPR alone in an emergency ambulance whilst being blue-lighted to hospital.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) ordered the SAS to apologise to the late patient’s spouse, referred to only as ‘C’, to protect their anonymity.
‘C’ complained about the SAS’s treatment of their spouse, ‘A’, after they experienced cardiac arrest whilst en route to the hospital in an ambulance.
The patient later died in hospital.
‘C’ said that the emergency ambulance took a long time to arrive, that the care and treatment their spouse received in their home was poor and that there was a delay in transporting them to the hospital.
The watchdog was also told that the ambulance crew asked ‘C’ to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation on ‘A’ on the way to the hospital.
‘C’ added that they were not assisted by the ambulance technician and performed CPR on their partner alone until arriving at the hospital.
The SAS initially investigated C’s complaints; however, when contacted by SPSO, the service requested a reinvestigation in light of an error that they noted in their initial response.
However, the SPSO looked into the matter after ‘C’ was dissatisfied with SAS’s further response.
The watchdog took independent advice from an emergency and retrieval medicine adviser and found how controllers handled the dispatch of the ambulance was unreasonable. Still, the initial care provided to ‘A’ in their home was reasonable.
However, the SPSO also stated that it should have been clear to the ambulance crew that ‘A’ was seriously unwell and that the time spent on the scene was unreasonable.
Additionally, asking A’s partner to perform CPR in the ambulance was “not reasonable”.
The SPSO ruled that the ambulance service’s initial investigation was insufficient, but it noted the SAS had taken proactive steps to address the incident and acknowledge its failings.
The watchdog upheld all of C’s complaints and ordered the SAS to issue an apology for “the length of time taken to assess A in their home and the delay in transporting A to hospital, the failure to follow clinical guidelines appropriately and the failure to handle C’s complaint appropriately.”
It added: “For patients suffering cardiac arrest out of hospital such as in this case, relevant clinical guidelines should be followed by the ambulance crew.
“Ambulance crew should accurately record what treatment was performed to demonstrate adherence to the clinical guidelines.
“When it is clear from initial assessment that a patient is seriously unwell, their transfer to hospital should be expedited and delays should be avoided.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said:
“This is a tragic case and we have apologised to the family of the patient privately and in person.
“We note the SPSO’s final decision and we will implement their recommendations.
“We are very sorry and we would like to again extend our deepest sympathies to the family for their loss.”
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