Patient dies in ambulance waiting outside ‘extremely busy’ A&E

‘This is the sort of thing that should never ever happen’

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 26 October 2021 19:40 BST
Winter will be 'exceptionally difficult' for the NHS, says Chris Whitty

A patient has died in the back of an ambulance while waiting outside an overwhelmed hospital A&E department.

An investigation has been launched after the death of the patient, understood to be an elderly woman, on Sunday night outside Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge.

The patient suffered a cardiac arrest while paramedics were waiting to hand her over to hospital staff. They were forced to wait outside with other ambulances because the A&E unit was “extremely busy”.

One NHS worker with knowledge of the incident said: “People do die in the back of an ambulance on the way to hospital or at a scene of an incident. But no one should die in an ambulance parked outside an emergency department which can give higher level care than an ambulance. There is no dignity in that.”

They added: “This is the sort of thing that should never ever happen. This is exactly the sort of thing that will break staff and drive up absences or leavers and make it worse. This is not an Emergency Department problem but a symptom of a broken system.”

Addenbrooke’s hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, has experienced a surge in A&E numbers this summer, in line with emergency departments across the country.

Last month photographs emerged of patients having to sit on chairs under blankets because the A&E was full.

Hospitals are seeing record numbers of patients coming to A&E while the military has been called in to drive ambulances because of unprecedented numbers of 999 calls.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has faced criticism for claiming in a Downing Street press conference last week that he did not believe the pressure on the NHS was unsustainable.

The East of England Ambulance Service said paramedics were called to a house in Cambridge just after 8pm on Sunday night to a patient with chest pain.

They arrived at hospital by 10pm where the patient was assessed by a nurse. The woman is believed to have had a cardiac arrest around 11pm.

Cambridge University Hospitals Trust said: “During an extremely busy night in our emergency department, a patient was brought to Addenbrooke’s by ambulance with chest pains.

“They were assessed by a registered nurse on arrival and remained in the ambulance, due to significant pressures on A&E, where they were monitored by paramedics.

“Our staff supported the paramedics when the patient’s condition deteriorated, but sadly they died following a cardiac arrest.

“An investigation has now been launched by CUH and our thoughts are with the family at this very difficult time.”

A spokesperson for the ambulance service said: “Sadly, the patient’s condition deteriorated while being transferred from the ambulance to the hospital and the patient died. The trust has begun an inquiry to see if any lessons can be learned from this incident.

“We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the patient’s family and would invite them to contact us directly to discuss the case.”

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