Mother whose baby stopped breathing told not to wait for ambulance as Secamb gets damning report

  • Report by ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw

A mother from Sussex has revealed how she was told not to wait for an ambulance after her baby stopped breathing, as it would be quicker and safer for her to travel to the hospital herself than to wait 42 minutes for paramedics.

Leigh-Ann Oakman's four-month-old daughter had bronchiolitis shortly after being born in July. But after taking a turn for the worst at home in Hastings, Leigh-Ann had not choice but to run to the Emergency Department with her baby in her arms - on the advice of the ambulance operator.

It comes as a damning report into South East Coast Ambulance Service which covers Kent and Sussex has seen its rating downgraded to "requiring improvement."

An inspection by the Care Quality Commission found that while front line staff were doing their utmost to provide safe and effective care - staff shortages meant in some cases the level of care had declined.

It has also resulted in long waits for ambulances.

The CQC report said an increase in staff sickness meant that the quality of care had declined. Credit: PA

Leigh-Ann says she was shocked when she phoned 999 to be put on hold.

"There was a couple of minutes before I actually got through to an operator, she said.

"By that point Lily had started breathing again, but I could hear she was really struggling. When the operator heard her, she said they were sending an ambulance as she needed to be seen urgently.

"But then she said the highest priority ambulance would be 42 minutes.

"She said, do we live close as it would be quicker and safer if we could get her to hospital ourselves. We live about a ten minute walk from the hospital up a hill.

"She asked me if I thought it would be clinically safe for me to take her to the hospital, and I was really shocked, and thought to myself 'surely it's safer than sitting here for 42 minutes.'

"I got off the phone and had to run up the hill the A and E."

  • Leigh-Ann Oakman says she was shocked at the response she received from dialling 999.

"We ran through the back of the hospital and a lovely lady who worked there helped me into the back of A&E where they took one look at her and how grey she was and immediately took her from me into resus.

"The first thing they asked me was 'why didn't you call an ambulance?'. They were disgusted when I explained.

"They told me I saved her life by running with her.

"I have no faith in the ambulance services any more and constantly worry when out of the house and make sure I know where the closest hospital is and how I would get there.

"I don't blame the 999 operators, it's not their fault. But it's not ok that this happened and is happening to people everywhere."

In response to the CQC report, South East Coast Ambulance Trust said it is committed to further improvements.

SECAmb Interim Chief Executive, Siobhan Melia, who was appointed in July this year said: "I am really pleased that the excellent care provided by our staff has once again been recognised and rated as 'Good' by the CQC, despite the huge pressures they face every day.

"I am very proud of the high-quality care and compassion provided by our staff.

"We have already taken concerns around our culture and leadership extremely seriously and we are committed to making further improvements to ensure we improve our response to patients and the working lives of our staff.

"I know that there is much to do to get the Trust to where it needs to be and we are working closely with staff as well as partners both regionally and nationally to make the necessary improvements highlighted in the report".

The rating comes as workers at three ambulance services across the south, including South East Coast Ambulance Service are to be balloted for strike action.

Members of the GMB Union say they are angry over a 4% pay rise which they say represents a real-terms pay cut.

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