Partner 'struggled to breathe' in ambulance outside Norfolk hospital for four hours

Lyn Brind died after waiting outside hospital in an ambulance for four hours. Her partner, Richard Bunton, has criticised her treatment.
Lyn Brind died after waiting outside hospital in an ambulance for four hours. Her partner, Richard Bunton, has criticised her treatment. Credit: Family photo

The partner of a woman who died after waiting outside hospital in an ambulance for four hours said the NHS would only get worse unless more money was spent.

Lyn Brind died from a heart attack just 20 minutes after making it into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn in May last year.

In a letter to the health secretary warning that other deaths could take place, Norfolk's coroner said the 61-year-old was in one of seven ambulances waiting outside at the time.

Ms Brind's partner, Richard Bunton, said he still found it difficult to talk about what happened to her.

The former dinner lady had been sent to hospital by her doctor after suffering with low oxygen levels and blood pressure. But when the ambulance arrived at the King's Lynn hospital, there was no room for her.

Lyn Brind died within 20 minutes of making it into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after waiting outside in an ambulance for four hours. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"When she got there, nothing was done," said Mr Bunton.

"Four hours in an ambulance is a long time, especially when you're struggling for your breath.

"The coroner said if she had got the treatment she should've got, it could have been a different outcome. So as far as I'm concerned, she could have been here now.

"She wouldn't have given up. She never gave up. To leave someone like her to suffer in an ambulance is ridiculous."

Earlier this month an inquest concluded that Ms Brind died from cardiac arrest following delays in her transfer.

Mr Bunton, who described the NHS as "very poor at the moment", said he blamed "the hospital, the paramedics and the government" for his partner's death.

"They're not spending enough time or money on the hospitals," he said. "The government keep making cuts and cuts. It's going to get worse. It's not going to get better."

In a rare move, Jacqueline Lake, senior coroner for Norfolk, sent a prevention of future deaths report to the Health Secretary Steve Barclay.

In the report, Ms Lake said: "During the course of the investigation my inquiries revealed matters giving rise to concern.

"In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken.

"Action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action."

The report added that Ms Brind's condition was "not diagnosed nor treated in a timely fashion" and that there was "no space in the hospital".

At the time of her death in May 2022, there were around 140 beds occupied at the hospital by patients who were fit to be discharged, but beds could not be found in the community.

Seven ambulances were waiting outside to take patients into the emergency department.

However, the coroner said that at the time of the inquest this number had risen to 17 ambulances regularly waiting outside with patients.

The Health Secretary must respond to the report by 13 March, including details of action taken or proposed to be taken.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust said: "The Trust extends their condolences to Ms Brind’s family. 

"Lessons have been learned and the NHS care standards for patients waiting in ambulances has been implemented, including working with ambulance staff to ensure that patients are still seen by a senior doctor if they cannot immediately come into the department, and completing 30 minute observations."

Earlier this month, the health secretary announced £200m in funding to help buy extra social care beds in an attempt to free up hospital spaces plus another £50m to expand and upgrade hospitals.

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