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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ryan McDougall

Ambulance drove off while Covid patient was ‘slumped’ over gate, inquiry told

PA Wire

Ambulance workers drove off as a man critically ill with Covid clutched his chest while “slumped” over his driveway gate, an inquiry has heard.

Caroleanne Stewart, of Scottish Covid Bereaved, lost her brother to the virus on May 1 2020, and her fiance died on September 3 the same year due to a brain aneurysm.

The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry heard on Friday that one consultant told Ms Stewart her fiance could have been saved if lockdown rules had not prevented him from visiting an optician.

Responding to questions from Stuart Gale KC, for the inquiry, Ms Stewart said her 57-year-old brother Derek began to feel “breathless” after falling ill with Covid.

She said his lips were blue and his condition worsened, and his wife phoned an ambulance.

Referencing a statement Ms Stewart gave to the inquiry, Mr Gale said: “By that time, as you’ve been told, Derek was struggling. He was in the driveway, he was clutching his chest and he slumped over the driveway gate – and I think some of his neighbours thought he was having a heart attack.”

Derek’s wife then began “screaming” at the ambulance crew: “He needs help, he needs help. He needs to get oxygen,” the inquiry heard.

Reading Ms Stewart’s evidence, Mr Gale said the crew did not exit the ambulance, and instead placed their hands up to their mouths while Derek’s wife approached and gestured to her to stop and approach no further.

He was eventually picked up by a white transport van at the request of the hospital who took him to a nearby Covid hub, where a doctor and nurse examined him in the back of the van.

He was then rushed to hospital for urgent medical attention, but died after his illness worsened.

Ms Stewart made a complaint to the Scottish Ambulance Service after her brother died, which resulted in the suspension of both ambulance staff while an investigation took place, the inquiry heard.

Had he been able to access an optician, and have an examination like he normally would have done pre-Covid, he could have been saved
— Caroleanne Stewart

She told the inquiry she made the complaint “very quickly because a paramedic’s job is they are supposed to come out of an ambulance and assess a patient and decide whether they need urgent medical intervention or not and act on it”.

She said: “They do not sit in an ambulance, watch a man hanging over a driveway gate to die, and then drive away and leave him.”

In August 2020, she received a letter from the Scottish Ambulance Service in relation to the investigation.

Reciting an extract from Ms Stewart’s evidence, Mr Gale said: “You say that the paramedics had admitted that they failed in their duty of care.

“They explained it or admitted it, that they had panicked and didn’t know what to do, and as a consequence of that, they had to undergo a retraining programme before they were allowed back out.”

Ms Stewart lost fiance Craig just months later.

The 46-year-old had suffered two prior brain aneurysms in his life, both of which had been treated successfully.

She told the inquiry he began experiencing problems with his vision, but did not have a headache and initially believed he was all right.

When she inquired about his symptoms to the NHS, she said she was told his vision problems were not considered a medical emergency as he did not have a headache.

She later received a phone call informing her he had collapsed at work and was admitted to hospital in a “critical” condition.

Medical staff explained brain surgery for the two previous aneurysms was the reason why he did not have a headache.

Ms Stewart told the inquiry a medical consultant said he could have been saved if he had been allowed to visit an optician.

Opticians were largely shut down during this time, with exceptions only made for urgent eye care.

She said: “The consultant told me that Covid did not kill Craig, but resulted in his death.

“Had he been able to access an optician, and have an examination like he normally would have done pre-Covid, he could have been saved.

“He would have had another operation, and he would still be living today.”

Ms Stewart later said her “family chain is broken” because of both deaths, and “can never be repaired”.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Ms Stewart and our thoughts are with her and her family.

“We carried out a full investigation at the time of the incident with these findings reported back to the family in full. Once again, we are very sorry for her loss.”

The inquiry also heard from Pamela Thomas, also of Scottish Covid Bereaved, who lost her brother James, 41, on October 5, 2021.

Ms Thomas described her brother as her “best pal” and a father figure to her eldest sons.

He contracted Covid and deteriorated so badly that he was taken to an A&E department.

Ms Thomas discovered he had been given an immunosuppressive drug, which she believes led to him picking up a number of infections including MRSA at the hospital, which caused severe swelling in his face.

She said the hospital told her he had a “small ulcer” on his face.

She said: “I walked into the room, and my brother was lying on a table, a metal table, and his eyes were like tennis balls and his lips were like bananas.

“He was swollen and it just didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel real at all.

“It didn’t feel like it was my brother there.”

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford, continues.

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