Covid pressures led to patients dying as staffing shortage hit 999 centres

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One desperate plea ended with a caller being told to make their own way to hospital – but they died while waiting for someone to take them there.

And the staff shortage, caused by Covid, was blamed for an 11-minute delay in answering a call about a care home resident who had suffered a heart attack. The patient later died in hospital .

The reports detail how numbers in the ambulance control room were at times critically low and how crews were told to prioritise only severe emergencies when the pressure on the system was too great.

The incidents, disclosed by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, were revealed following a Freedom of Information survey investigating critical delays in responding to 999 calls.

Yorkshire admitted there were 10 cases in the last financial year where a delay in responding to the call had a critical impact.

In one incident, a 999 call was made to the control room on behalf of a patient with severe breathing problems.

A staff shortage at the call centre, caused by the pandemic, led to a nine-minute delay in answering. The patient died a short time after getting to hospital .

High call volumes were also blamed in the case of the patient who died waiting for someone to take them to hospital .

They had dialled 111 but after a five-minute delay they eventually put the phone down, rang 999 and were advised to make their own way “to A&E.

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A spokesperson for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “The unique and prolonged nature of the pandemic has exacerbated operational pressures across all NHS trusts, including ambulance services.

“First and foremost, we are mindful of any adverse impact on patient care and are doing all that we can to minimise this.

“We continue to foster a culture of continuous improvement and pro-actively encourage the reporting of serious incidents and near-misses so that the information can help to inform improvements and support a safer environment for patients and staff.

“The trust carries out thorough investigations, where families are offered the opportunity to be involved, and we ensure that any learning is identified and actions are taken to help reduce the risk of recurrence.”

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