Wiltshire ice fall ambulance wait death 'an accident'

The road in Ludgershall, Wiltshire Doreen Wignall, 88, suffered an inter cranial bleed after slipping on ice in Ludgershall two years ago

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An elderly woman who waited two hours for an ambulance after slipping on ice and banging her head died as a result of an accident, an inquest has ruled.

Doreen Wignall, 88, died in hospital two days after the fall in Ludgershall, Wiltshire, in December 2011.

An inquest at Salisbury Coroner's Court heard the cause of death was an intracranial bleed, with the judgement given it was the result of an accident.

According to the ambulance service the delay was unavoidable in this instance.

'Timely response'

A representative for the South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) told the court it had been an exceptionally busy day with treacherous driving conditions.

Analysis

It was a very cold day in December 2011 when Doreen Wignall slipped on an icy road in Ludgershall.

Passers-by and residents called 999 and tried to stem the flow of blood from an injury to her head, and keep her warm.

The ambulance should have arrived within 30 minutes, but more than an hour passed and there was still no sign of help.

So another 999 call was made and operators were told the patient was slipping in and out of consciousness.

The priority was then changed to what's known as a Code Red Eight, which means an ambulance should have arrived within eight minutes, but it was a further 35 minutes before a paramedic attended the scene and 12 minutes more before an ambulance arrived.

Ms Wignall arrived in hospital nearly three hours after her fall.

The coroner concluded that, based on expert evidence, he was satisfied the delay had not contributed to her death.

He added Ms Wignall was very elderly, she had suffered a catastrophic brain injury and could not be operated on.

Following the inquest, a SWAS trust spokesperson said: "We endeavour to provide a timely response to patients on each and every occasion.

"On 17 December this was clearly not achieved, though the verdict of accidental death recorded at today's inquest, coupled with the fact that no recommendations or actions were delegated to the trust moving forward, shows that the delayed response could not be avoided in this instance.

"Although circumstances on the day do not change the sad outcome, the 17th December 2011 was the third busiest day in the history of the service."

They added: "Demand in the Wiltshire sector was 55% above average, the number of falls increased by over 300% and almost 500 incidents were recorded for that day.

"The situation was further compounded by treacherous driving conditions and a number of road closures, much of which was alluded to during the summing up at today's inquest."

The trust added some changes and recommendations had been implemented following an internal investigation including new guidance on how it dealt with incidents at peak periods.

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