Total Pageviews

Friday, 17 January 2014

Four 999 Calls - no one came (Update)

My firm EAD is representing Joyce Pring, the widow of Frederick Pring – they were married for 38 years.

Last year Frederick died in the most tragic of circumstances.
He suffered from COPD and heart failure for a number of years. On the 21st March 2013 he began to suffer chest pains which were getting gradually worse. Then the pain became very severe. He was also very breathless. He knew it was serious and asked his wife to call 999. She did this.

She rang the emergency services at 1:09 am. She went through a number of questions with the operator. They then waited for an ambulance to come.

Mrs. Pring called again at 01:19 am; she was re-assured that an ambulance was on its way and she was asked the same questions as before. Mr. Pring was getting worse by the minute. Still there was no ambulance. By now they were both very scared.
She called a third time at 01:38 am and went through the whole process yet again. Mrs. Pring became increasingly frustrated.

At around 01:45 am, Frederick told Joyce that he was ‘going’. Frederick then fell back onto the bed. Joyce knew that she had lost her husband.

Mrs. Pring called 999 a fourth time at 01:51 am to report that her husband was dead. Remarkably she was asked similar questions again. They asked if he was conscious and told Mrs.Pring to clear his airways. Mrs. Pring was told to move him from the bed to the floor which was impossibility. Mrs. Pring had to reiterate that her husband was dead.

At 01:57, two ambulances arrived together, then soon after an ambulance from the North West of England arrived. It was too late for paramedics to do anything.

We all associate 999 with two things. Firstly, it means that someone is in desperate need. Secondly, it means that help is on its way. Here, there was call after call after call. But no one came. It is hard to imagine a worse nightmare.

Yesterday the inquest into Frederick Pring’s death began. The recordings of the telephone calls made by Mrs. Pring to the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust were played out loud in court. Mrs. Pring had to leave the court room whilst they were played as she said listening to them would of have been too distressing. The fourth and final call in particular, when she was asked to lift Fred from the bed and lay him on the floor and clear his airways, when she knew he was dead, haunts her to this day.

The inquest the coroner decided to invoke Article 2 of the European convention on Human Rights (Right to Life), ths widening the scope of the inquiry. Mrs. Pring was pleased with the coroner’s decision to do so. Mrs. Pring believes that her husband has been let down by a systemic failure and does not seek to blame any one individual in this case.

There are many lessons to be learned from this tragedy.

I also hope that politicians will begin to appreciate that cases like this are nothing to do with any compensation culture. This case is all about justice for a poor woman who is entitled to answers to questions.

UPDATE - on 20th January the Coroner for North EastWales gave a narrative verdict. He has required the Welsh Ambulance Service and the Hospital Board to respond within 56 days to concerns about prioritisation of calls and delays in handing over patients at A/E. They are required to state what action has been taken or will be taken in order to prevent future deaths and to avoid, for other families, a repeat of the harrowing events which beset Mr Pring. He said -

'The loss of even a single life to a potentially avoidable delay is unacceptable and so I intend to make reports to both the Ambulance Trust and the Health Board advising them of my concerns that unless action is taken, circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will continue to exist.'


  1. My thoughts exactly. One of the worst stories i've heard in years...

  2. I have just come across this blog - thank you Steve. Helen Barry of EAD has been a real support to me.