Ambulance chiefs have apologised to the family of a four-year-old boy after an inquest heard a paramedic “panicked” at the scene of a road accident because he may not have dealt with a badly injured child before.
Jerome Nolan – known as JJ – died in Leeds General Infirmary a short time after he was accidentally run over by his father when the youngster broke free from his mother on the doorstep of the family home in Belle Vue Road, Burley, Leeds and chased after his father’s car.
As Jerome lay injured, a lone paramedic “rapid responder” arrived but was carrying only an adult oxygen mask and had apparently failed to correctly assemble a suction machine, according to an off-duty nurse.
The nurse, Hayley Tomey, said the paramedic did not appear prepared and was more concerned about putting a collar on Jerome.
An inquest in Leeds heard that a double-crew ambulance arrived late because of a mistake by a control room dispatcher.
When the ambulance arrived at Accident and Emergency it was held up again as all the ambulance bays were full.
A paediatric consultant who treated Jerome told yesterday’s hearing that he had suffered serious head and chest injuries and that it was unlikely he would have survived had he got to hospital earlier.
Two senior managers at Yorkshire Ambulance Service yesterday apologised to Jerome’s parents, Nadia and Jerome snr.
Jane Scaife, clinical support manager, apologised for the delay in sending a double-crew ambulance, saying it was down to “human error” by a dispatch worker who had failed to send an available crew who were only 2-3 minutes away.
The inquest also heard that the incident had been a determined as a “category B” call, the second most serious.
Deputy coroner Melanie Williamson questioned this, saying it caused her “considerable disquiet” and in her opinion the system for categorising incidents needed looking at.
Dr David Maclin, the ambulance service’s assistant medical director, said improvements had been made since Jerome’s death on July 6 last year.
He said equipment for adults and children were now carried in one bag by rapid responders.
Asked by the coroner about the faulty suction device, Dr Maclin said the accident scene would have been “extremely distressing and difficult for the paramedic” and the connections on the device can become disconnected.
The coroner said: “It would appear that we have a paramedic who panicked. We have a distressing scene, but isn’t that what paramedics deal with?”
Dr Maclin suggested that the paramedic may not have attended an incident involving a child before. He apologised to the family.
“It is right and proper they (the family) would expect a paramedic is able to carry out life-support and that the equipment is fully functioning and working. We have made some changes around having the appropriate equipment available.
“We have ensured, in the last 12 months, all paramedics have updated and passed life-support training.”
Dr Maclin also commented on the paramedic’s use of his mobile phone which was used – unsuccessfully – to get through to the hospital.
He said this was an unacceptable method and all calls should be made via the 999 control room on a radio handset.
The coroner described the ambulance service performance that day as “not only regrettable but wholly unacceptable and I would like these comments to be passed onto the powers-that-be.
“I would like further investigations into this to make absolutely sure everything that went wrong never happens again”.
She recorded a verdict that Jerome died as a result of an accident.
Following the case, an ambulance service spokesman apologised to the family. He said the incident was being looked into to see what lessons could be learned.