Mum of Belfast man who died after ambulance wait in legal action over 'chronic shortage'

Ambulances waiting at Antrim Area Hospital amid severe pressures.
Northern Ireland's ambulance service has been under severe pressure in recent months

A bereaved mother is set to take legal action over an alleged chronic shortage of ambulances in Northern Ireland.

Lawyers for west Belfast woman Anne Gannon claim that a wait of nearly nine hours for an emergency crew may have contributed to the death of her 25-year-old son.

Lee Gannon died in the Royal Victoria Hospital on February 15 this year – a day after his family say they first requested an ambulance when he complained of breathing difficulties.

A pre-action letter has been sent to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Belfast Health Trust, threatening judicial review proceedings at the High Court for an alleged breach of human rights.

In a statement to UTV, the Ambulance service said it "will always engage with judicial, or other relevant processes relating to service delivery."

The development follows the death of 39-year-old Jody Keenan in Newry, Co Down while waiting for paramedics.

The classroom assistant collapsed in the Trevor Hill area of the city during a night out last weekend.

Due to a shortage of crews, it took more than 45 minutes for an ambulance to reach her.

Ms Gannon’s legal representatives are now alleging a systemic lack of availability across the region.

Five calls had been made for an ambulance by the time a crew arrived to treat her son, according to their case. By that stage he had stopped breathing.

Preliminary post-mortem findings indicate Mr Gannon may have died of issues related to lobar pneumonia.

But the family’s solicitor, Colin McMenamin of KRW Law, claims it is arguable that the delay in an ambulance arriving contributed to his death.

In the pre-action letter he stressed that no individual failure is alleged.

“The matter being challenged is the systemic breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, due to the chronic and ongoing shortage of ambulances in Northern Ireland,” Mr McMenamin contended.

The authorities have been asked to acknowledge the alleged breach and identify possible remedies.

Information is also being sought about waiting times and the number of ambulances on duty, both in the greater Belfast area and across Northern Ireland, when Mr Gannon’s family requested medical assistance.

Mr McMenamin confirmed in the correspondence: “Should the respondent not provide this remedy then the applicant will seek a declaration that there is an ongoing systemic Article 2 breach.”

The Belfast Trust was also approached for comment.