Grandmother died after three-hour ambulance wait


A Manchester grandfather has told how his wife died in his arms from a serious but treatable complication of diabetes after waiting almost three hours for an ambulance.

Father-of--two and grandfather-of-five, Derek Styles, 59, of Irlam, says he believes if an ambulance had reached Beryl quickly she would still be alive today. A BBC investigation this week revealed that ambulance services nationally are struggling to reach seriously ill and injured patients quickly enough.

Derek, who should have been celebrating his and Beryl’s 40th wedding anniversary two weeks after her death in March, said: “We shouldn’t have had to wait so long but no matter what I say it won’t bring my wife back and that’s something I now have to live with. We worked together for 30 years in the license trade so I’m used to looking after everyone else and that’s how I am coping. I just have to try to get on with things but Beryl’s death has been very hard on the whole family.”

Claire Boardman, Derek’s solicitor at law firm JMW, commented: “We have numerous concerns about the way the ambulance service dealt with this serious and deteriorating situation that night and we will be investigating these closely. One of my key concerns is that the call was wrongly categorised as a non-life-threatening injury. As well as being extremely distressing for Derek and his family it poses a potential risk to other patients and must be addressed urgently. Derek and the rest of the family were let down in the worst possible way as when Beryl needed urgent help it wasn’t there.”

An investigation by the North West Ambulance Service has revealed that the 999 call made by Derek at 12.14am on 2 March was incorrectly categorised as not a life-threatening incident despite the fact Beryl was suffering from the sudden onset of breathing difficulties, as well as loss of vision and sensation in her legs.

Derek was kept on the phone as Beryl, who would have turned 60 last month, deteriorated but the call handler did not use a tool to monitor her breathing. After 45 minutes the call handler’s shift ended and Derek was transferred to another worker without his knowledge. Beryl’s breathing was monitored by the second call handler and at 2.37am the incident was categorised as life-threatening and attempts were made to locate an ambulance however none were available.

In its letter to Beryl’s family NWAS said the service was down by seven vehicles that night due to sickness, annual leave and staff shortages and poor communication about motorway closures caused further problems.

A vehicle was finally located at 3.02am and arrived at 3.12am but by this point Beryl had stopped breathing and resuscitation attempts by the ambulance crew were unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead at the scene. The coroner recorded her cause of death as diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of diabetes caused when insulin levels become too high or too low but is treatable with early intervention.

After the distress of Beryl’s death the family suffered further due to the length of time it took for them to be sent the findings of the ambulance service investigation. The family had been told they would have the report by June but it was another five months before it was sent to them in November.


Picture shows Derek and Beryl Styles.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Kelly Hindle

0161 828 1868

Samantha Meakin

0161 828 198107595 277 842

Note to EditorsJMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones.

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