Ambulance errors blamed for seven deaths in region

Delays and errors by the ambulance service have led to the deaths of seven patients in the North West over the past five years, a report claims.

The region has the worst record behind London for fatalities caused by slow response, or mistakes by 999 call handlers and crews which have prompted official warnings from coroners.

Of 35 such deaths across England and Wales between 2011 and 2015, 10 were in the capital, followed by seven in the North West. East of England, East Midlands and Wales all had three each.

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Last night the numbers of deaths, issued by the Office of the Chief Coroner, were described as “extremely rare, but tragic occasions,” by a spokesman for the North West Ambulance Service.

The service said it answered 1.2m calls in 2015/16, which was 10 per cent up in five years.

“During this time, we have continued to invest in our frontline services. Over the past year alone we have introduced 60 new vehicles and increased our overall number of frontline ambulance staff by over 250 new posts.

“Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do and on these extremely rare, but tragic occasions, we are committed to learning lessons to minimise risks and improve services.”

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The figures have been drawn from Prevention of Future Death Notices which are issued by coroners after inquests when they have concerns about treatment given.

In nine of the 35 cases nationally deaths were caused by mistakes by call-handlers, poor care by paramedics at the scene caused nine deaths, staff shortages were involved in four and delayed handovers at A&E caused three.

NHS England said the deaths were tragic, but lessons would be learned.