Llangollen man who died after 10-hour ambulance wait 'would likely have survived'

David Strachen waited almost 10-hours for an ambulance in March last year.

A retired university lecturer who waited almost 10 hours for an ambulance would probably have survived, an inquest has heard.

David Strachen’s family, from Vivod, near Llangollen, first called 999 at 11.30pm on March 15 last year when Mr Strachen complained of chest pains and was vomiting.

They called 999 several times as his condition worsened, but Gill Plemyng, service manager with the Welsh Ambulance Services Trust, told the hearing that they were dealing with nine Category 1 calls at the time where lives were in immediate danger.

In a statement read at the inquest in Ruthin, Mr Strachen’s wife, Lucille, said that at one stage an ambulance pulled up outside the house but was then diverted to another emergency.

“The paramedics were embarrassed,” she said.

Ms Plemyng said the call was categorised as an Amber 1 call, with life being under threat, though not immediately. An audit after Mr Strachen’s death found that the correct category had been applied to the first and subsequent calls.

An ambulance eventually arrived at 9.30am the following day (March 16) and Mr Strachen was taken to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, where he died later that day.

Pathologist Dr Mohammad Aslam gave the cause of death as myocardial infarction – a heart attack – due to coronary atheroma, or blocking of the arteries.

Cardiac consultant Dr Paul Das said it was impossible to say whether he would have survived had he reached hospital sooner, but he added: “The likelihood is it would have been successful and he would have survived.”

Ms Plemyng told the inquest it had been an extremely busy night with 21 Amber 1 calls waiting at one time. One of the main problems, she said, was that so many ambulances were queuing outside the general hospitals, with patients being seen inside the vehicles.

She said various steps were being considered to tackle the ongoing problem, but added, “We are constantly trying to improve the service”.

Kate Sutherland, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central, recorded a narrative conclusion in which she said that although Mr Strachen died of a naturally occurring condition his chance of survival would have been greater had he arrived in hospital sooner.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said it is "constantly trying to improve the service." Credit: PA

She said she would be issuing a Prevention of Future Deaths notice to both the Welsh Ambulance Services Trust and the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board because they needed to work together to tackle the problem.

“We have heard that WAST is doing everything it can but there is no documentation as to what is being done and what will be done going forward,” she said. “It is clear that collaboration is needed between a number of different agencies but I am concerned that deaths will continue unless action is taken.”

Ms Sutherland described it as “a terribly tragic set of circumstances” but told Mrs Strachen that it was hoped that some good could come out of her husband’s death if improvements were made.