Ellesmere Port MP Justin Madders is supporting a campaign to improve emergency lifeline services, after hearing the plight of a woman whose father died whilst waiting for an ambulance.
Rita Cuthell from Ellesmere Port will appear on Granada Reports tonight (Tuesday, April 12) to talk about her fight to get justice for her 74-year-old dad Ronald Volante, who was found dead after suffering heart failure in his flat at a sheltered housing complex in Prenton, Merseyside, on Bonfire Night last year.
Mr Volante pulled the flat’s emergency alarm cord, but North West Ambulance Service paramedics took 100 minutes to reach him after his call was downgraded to ‘low priority’ because operators failed to pass on his medical history.
As he waited for help, Mr Volante, who had chronic heart disease, was able to scribble a message to his two daughters on the back of an envelope, which read: ‘I love you Rita, I love you Deb, Dad’.
Mrs Cuthell, 51, is furious about the time it look for an ambulance to arrive and believes her dad could have been saved if the housing association, Magenta Living - which operated the community alarm system - had informed the ambulance service that he suffered from a heart condition as the association had access to his medical notes.
This meant Mr Volante’s situation was given a low priority by the North West Ambulance Service on one of the busiest nights of the year. His daughters say nobody notified them after the ambulance was called, so they remained oblivious to his fate.
Magenta Living have confirmed they have since implemented changes to their procedures in the light of comments made at the January inquest into Mr Volante's death.
Now Mr Madders is supporting Mrs Cuthell’s campaign to change the guidelines of duty of care in both private firms and the NHS, and said there should be a national standard put in place.
He said: “What we want to see is a national standard in place where those who operate lifeline services and who hold medical information on the resident convey that to the emergency services if they are called.
“We don’t know if that would have saved Rita’s father here but we do know that if the ambulance service had known about his medical history they would have given it more priority,” he added.
Mrs Cuthell said: “We thought he was safe because he had an alarm in his house, but nobody asked any questions about him. Something could have been done. He was shouting for help but none came. I want proper questions asked about this. Do you have to be in a road crash now to get an ambulance?”
A coroner at Mr Volate’s inquest said it was not known when Mr Volante wrote the note to his daughters and recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, but he urged Magenta Living to update its training procedures so all relevant medical information is shared with the emergency services in future.
A NWAS spokesperson said: “As identified during the inquest, the NWAS Emergency Medical Dispatcher was not informed at the time of the call of crucial information concerning Mr Volante’s condition, such as his previous medical history and that the patient was no longer responding. If this had been provided the call would have received an urgent ‘red’ priority which would have triggered an eight minute response from an ambulance crew.
“We are grateful for the coroner’s helpful comments that reinforce the importance to provide accurate and relevant clinical details to emergency services when calling 999.”
A statement from Magenta Living said: "The sad death of Mr Volante has reinforced to Magenta Living as a provider of a community alarm service supporting vulnerable tenants the pressure that the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is under. The changes to our procedures are to help NWAS operators ensure any emergency call we make enables the fastest response possible from them.
"The coroner raised three concerns about our procedures in relation to the use of medical information, the response to a change in the caller’s circumstances and staff training.
"Following the concerns raised, Magenta Living, with immediate effect, changed the procedure to ensure that all medical information held will be shared with the ambulance service, unless a service user specifically requests otherwise.
"Up until Mr Volante’s death, the Support Link community alarm service protocol, as approved by the Telecare Services Authority (TSA), had been to answer the standard questions asked by the ambulance service operator.
"It is understood from the ambulance service that these questions are designed to gather sufficient information to prioritise calls. Proactively providing medical history to the ambulance service did not form part of Magenta Living’s accredited procedure.
"In light of the coroner's concerns about action following a change in the caller’s circumstances, Magenta Living’s call handlers were immediately briefed and instructed to update the ambulance service of any known changes of circumstances. In addition, the Magenta Living call handler will maintain regular contact until the callrs next of kin or the emergency services arrive.
"All staff have been trained in the changes made to the procedure and regular training will continue to take place."
Rita will appear on ITV’s Granada Reports tonight, and you can sign her petition here