A mum has spoken of how she had ‘never been so terrified’ as she drove the 25 miles to hospital after an ambulance failed to turn up for her sick baby son.
Emma Norman, 26, called 999 in the early hours of Sunday, January 28, to get help for one-year-old George, who has a hole in his heart and whose temperature was so low it had failed to register on two thermometers.
First aider Emma was told an ambulance was on its way and a nurse practitioner would call while she was waiting.
However, after waiting more than an hour, Emma said she was told it had not been dispatched as her son was ‘not an emergency’. Emma said: “I knew it was something viral because only hours before we were at Pilgrim Hospital because he had been burning up all day and his temperature was above 39C.
“We arrived at the hospital around 5pm and were seen by the out-of-hours doctor and told to give him Calpol and Ibuprofen.
“We stayed until his temperature was below 39C but were told to monitor him and go back if we were worried.”
After arriving home at 7pm, George slept until just after midnight. Emma said: “George woke up just after midnight screaming. I thought it must be a night terror.
“His breathing was rapid and wheezy and he was struggling to stay awake and when I felt him he was icy cold. I tried to take his temperature but it was so low it wouldn’t register on two thermometers.
“I’m a first aider but I just couldn’t call this and so I dialled 999 – it’s the first time I’ve ever done this but I just felt I needed medical support.
“I was told that an ambulance was on its way and that I was to expect a call from a nurse practitioner.
“An hour later no-one had called and there was no ambulance and so I called back, only to be told an ambulance hadn’t been dispatched because it wasn’t an emergency.
“I couldn’t just sit at home – I have never been so terrified – and got in the car to take him to Pilgrim. By the time we arrived I had managed to warm him up. We were put in a cubicle in A&E and he was given antibiotics. The doctor checked him at 8.30am and we were discharged at 9am.
“We just feel so let down by the system. George had a viral infection but he was lucky. My fear is that it could have been something more serious – and what would have happened then? Another child might not be so lucky.”
Richard Hunter, Paramedic and Ambulance Operations Manager for Lincolnshire, explained the call was assessed under national ambulance response guidlines. He said: “Not every 999 call will receive an automatic ambulance response. We have to send our ambulances and skilled clinicians to patients who are experiencing a life-threatening or serious emergency.
“Under the national ambulance response programme conditions such as viral infections and vomiting are assessed as category 4, which is not life-threatening or serious. We often support these patients by giving them telephone advice to discuss the best course of action they can take. This can include making their own way to hospital or a treatment centre, visiting a local pharmacy or making an appointment with their GP.”