Inquiry into fatal ambulance delay

An inquiry has been launched into why a dying man who was turned away from one hospital took six hours to arrive at another 50 miles away - only to die shortly afterwards.

Tony Usher, 60, died of heart failure and pneumonia on New Year's Eve after the ambulance transferring him from Joyce Green Hospital in Dartford, Kent - where there were no intensive care beds available - to the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate got into difficulties in the freezing conditions.

At 6.45am he was put in an ambulance to begin the journey to Margate. His wife, Georgina, was told she could not travel with him. During the 50-mile journey, the ambulance carrying Mr Usher had to stop because of wintry conditions and the crew diverted to the Medway Hospital in Gillingham. After spending more than three hours at the Medway Hospital, he was transferred to Margate at 12.25pm. He was pronounced clinically dead shortly afterwards.

Now his widow is demanding to know why it took so long for her husband to arrive at the hospital, after she made the same journey in two hours. She said: "We knew my husband was dying but we would have liked him to die in dignity, with his family around him, not in an ambulance on his own."

A spokesman for Joyce Green Hospital said they had launched an inquiry into the matter.

An Ambulance Service spokesman said: "En route to Margate hospital the bad conditions caused the windscreen washer on the ambulance to freeze up ... and the decision was made to divert to Medway for the patient to receive continuing care in the warm."

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