Probe launched after 89-year-old woman dies after GP ‘sleeps’ outside

An investigation has been launched after a Gloucestershire man claimed he found a doctor resting in his car outside the home of his 89-year-old mother who he had been called to treat and later died.

Keith Smith, from Bishop’s Cleeve, called the NHS 111 line after his mother Olive complained of stomach pains and delirium on July 11, the day of the Euro 2020 final.

He was told around an hour later that an out-of-hours GP would triage his mother’s case.

He said a clinician turned up 12 hours later but at one stage during the visit, he claimed he found the doctor lying in his car outside getting some ‘shut eye’.

Mr Smith says he faced numerous delays in trying to get the right care for his mother.

An ambulance which was meant to arrive within 18 minutes took more than three hours to get to their address, he claims.

Mr Smith said she had a stomach ache around mid-morning on that day and district nurses came out to see her.

Her pains disappeared momentarily around noon but returned later that day and Mr Smith called 111 at around 2.30pm as he said his mother was presenting delirium, groin and back passage pain.

He was advised to speak to a clinician immediately and was told at around 3.26pm that a home visit was needed to assess her further.

He called 111 at around 7pm as a home visit had not yet taken place and he was told the case had been listed for an urgent call back, although the service was exceptionally busy.

The coordinator told him she would ask a clinician to prioritise the case, but he was advised this would be a telephone call and not a home visit.

Mr Smith spoke to a GP at 7.11pm and told them his mother had pain in the stomach area for the last nine hours despite having taken paracetamol.

At 7.31pm Mr Smith requested a visit from the district nurses who attended at 9pm to change her catheter.

But at 9.26pm Mr Smith was advised by the nurses to call 111 as his mother had low blood pressure and was breathing heavily with groin and abdominal pain.

The case was referred to South West Ambulance Service and assigned as a category two emergency meaning a response should be within 18 minutes.

However, despite several calls to 999, the ambulance took more than three hours to arrive, Mr Smith claims.

After arriving at 12.52am, an out-of-hours GP rang to advise they were about a 55-minute drive away.

The paramedics spoke to the GP saying that Mr Smith was happy to wait for the GP visit and the ambulance left at 2.08am.

The GP arrived at 2.29am and after assessing Mrs Smith he administered 5mg morphine and 50mg of cyclizine subcutaneously at around 2.55am.

The clinician made several calls to South Western Ambulance Service before leaving the house at around 3.45am to continue with his calls.

But Mr Smith says he also called 999 and then went out to find the GP as he was concerned about his mother’s welfare. He claims he found the GP asleep in the car at around 4.24am.

When the GP returned to the house Mr Smith said his mother was not breathing and CPR was given. A call was made to 999 declaring a cardiac arrest.

At 4.55am Mr Smith said an ambulance crew arrived and continued CPR.

But at 5.17am Mr Smith consented on paramedic advice to stop CPR and Olive passed away.

Mr Smith said he was unaware that his mother was dying in front of him.

“I think it’s totally irresponsible,” he said.

“I believe that the GP had no reason to leave the house. He could have carried on making those calls from the settee or he could have sent his driver out to handle the calls in the car,” he said.

“He had taken his assistant out with him. The car seats were moved to full horizontal and his eyes were tightly shut.

“I feel that there was no need for the GP to exit the house at all. He could have sent his assistant out to the car alone to handle call duties and alert him. He missed his patient dying.”

Mr Smith has made a formal complaint and NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group says an investigation is ongoing.

“We are very sorry to hear of this case and our heartfelt condolences go to the gentleman and his family at what remains a very difficult time,” a spokesperson for the CCG said.

“The specific circumstances are subject to on-going investigations and therefore it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.

“We expect the highest standards of service for our patients and will continue to work closely with the provider to support timely and high-quality care for the people of Gloucestershire.”

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) spokesperson said they too are conducting an investigation into Mrs Smith’s case.

“We would like to express our condolences to Mrs Smith’s family following her passing in July.

“We are conducting an investigation into Mrs Smith’s case with the involvement of her family, and cannot comment further until the process has concluded.”

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