An investigation has been launched after the death of a six-month-old baby amid claims an ambulance was delayed in getting to him, even though there was one just two minutes away.
Gemma and Darren Moore have today spoke out for the first time about their son Cainan's death in October 2012, which came after he stopped breathing suddenly at home.
The couple live only a five-minute drive away from New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, yet their lawyers say it took nearly 20 minutes for them to arrive there because the ambulance was delayed by nearly 10 minutes.
They also claim the operator was not adequately trained to recognise the seriousness of the call, despite being initially told that the baby was not breathing.
The couple say they believe the delay could have had an impact on their son's death.
Doctors at the hospital fought for hours to save Cainan, the couple's only child, but eventually realised nothing could be done and he died immediately after being taken off life support as a result of severe brain injuries caused by prolonged lack of oxygen to the brain.
Cainan's parents say an inquest into his death found he died of natural causes and doctors couldn't say what caused him to stop breathing in the first place.
Their lawyers Irwin Mitchell, say that a Root Cause Analysis Report completed by West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust after Cainan's death found that the call centre had allocated a rapid response vehicle that was more than 14 minutes away, when there was a full ambulance less than two minutes away on a ‘disturbable break’, meaning it was free to attend incidents.
They also said that the call was not coded as Red 1, the most serious categorisation, as there was no appropriate guidance for call centre staff on how to assess troubled breathing in babies. They also said the report admitted there were staff shortages on the day.
Ms Moore, aged 29, of Fallings Park, in Wolverhampton said she and her partner had been ‘devastated’ at what was revealed in the document.
She said: “We couldn't believe it. We were completely in shock that these things weren't in place.
“It just shouldn't happen.”
She added: “What makes this all the more unbearable is Darren is an ex fire-fighter trained in giving CPR and despite being at work on the other side of the city, he may have got to us quicker than the ambulance did. We have to live with the thought every day that he might have been able to save Cainan’s life.
Mr Moore, aged 36, added that the first few minutes after a child stops breathing were crucial and that he believed that the ambulance’s delay could have impacted on the death.
"There was an ambulance two minutes away that was full equipped. We think that could have had an impact on Cainan's life," he said.
Mrs Moore first dialled 999 at 11.05am on October 26, 2012 and her son died just after 9pm that night.
Irwin Mitchell says West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust has since made a series of improvements including a seven-point action plan and new guidance being drawn up to ensure emergency codes are applied correctly, particularly in relation to babies who are breathing abnormally; there is also said to have been more training to improve consistency.
However, the couple say they remain concerned that the tragedy could be repeated with their lawyers saying the National NHS Pathways Group has refused to make it compulsory for every call centre in the UK to have access to the guide.
Mrs Moore said: “We are pleased that West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust has reviewed its training and guidance for call operators but we believe this needs to be rolled out across the UK so that the appropriate treatment can be provided to patients with breathing difficulties as quickly as possible.
“Nothing can bring our baby back but it would give us a small piece of comfort to know his death was not completely in vain.”
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “This was a very tragic case and our thoughts are with Cainan’s family.
“The Trust has received correspondence from a solicitor representing Cainan’s family.
“We are in the process of investigating the claims and therefore have been advised not to respond substantively whilst that work is ongoing.”