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News : NHS 111 Call Centre Worker ‘Cost a Patient Her Life'
London, UK, April 15, 2016 -- The call handler on the controversial NHS 111 helpline 'ignored and over-ruled' a 'red flag' warning to send paramedics after hearing the woman's symptoms.
Dinner lady Maureen Johnson, 52, waited for help for six hours after she first rang 111 and said she felt out of breath.
She eventually collapsed and was rushed to hospital, where doctors worked for more than 70 minutes to re-start her heart and she had to be put on life support.
The married grandmother suffered 'catastrophic' brain damage and died when her life support was withdrawn four days later.
Her death is the latest in a series of scandals to hit the 111 helpline, which has been blamed for a rise in the number of emergency hospital admissions.
An inquest heard the 111 call handling system had generated a 'red flag' warning when Mrs Johnson first called the service last November.
But the call handler decided to over-rule it because Mrs Johnson, from Thornbury in Bradford, said she felt out of breath, but did not sound it on the phone.
Instead of sending an ambulance as the system prompted, the call was referred to a nurse who said she would pass it to the local out-of-hours service to see a doctor within two hours.
But Mrs Johnson's details were accidentally sent to Oldham rather than Bradford and she was not seen.
The desperate woman then made a second call to 111 and told a different operator: 'I think I'm going to die. My chest is tightening up.'
She was assured she had 'not been forgotten' and a GP did then call her and promised a home visit within two hours.
But she suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed at home before the doctor showed up.
An inquest into her death heard she had waited a total of six hours and might have survived if she had been taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary earlier.
Intensive care consultant Paul Stonelake told the coroner: 'It's likely if she had been in hospital before her cardiac arrest things would have been different.'
Coroner Oliver Longstaff said: 'The decision not to send for an ambulance at the first call represented a missed opportunity to get Mrs Johnson into hospital some six hours before she eventually got there.
'Because she did not sound out of breath the red flag coming up on the call handler's pathway system was ignored and overruled.
'I'm satisfied had the opportunity been taken it is more likely than not that Mrs Johnson would not have sustained the catastrophic brain injury she did and she would not have died when she died.'
Her widower Stanley, 64, said he was taking legal advice about possible action against the NHS.
He said: 'They made a lot of mistakes, put it that way, one mistake after another. I was in the house when my wife made the telephone calls. It should not have happened like it did.
'She was 52. This is no age to die. We miss her every day.'
Michaela Littlewood Prince, from NHS 111 Quality Assurance, which investigated Mrs Johnson's death, said lessons had been learned and improvements would be introduced.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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NHS Direct is a 24 hour health advice and information service provided by the National Health Service (NHS) in England. NHS Direct provides confidential access to medical information, guidance and reassurance through a range of interactive services. These include an expert telephone advice line and detailed web resources.
Published: Monday, April 18, 2016