999 operator rapped over fatal error (From York Press)

by Symptom Advice on February 23, 2012

999 operator rapped over fatal error

10:00am Thursday 2nd February 2012 in News by Jennifer Bell , jennifer.bell@thepress.co.uk

THE grieving brother of a York man said he was “shocked” and “angry” after the 999 operator who failed to send him an ambulance avoided being struck off.

Retired hotel manager John Barker, of Acomb, rang 999 in severe pain, but Yorkshire Ambulance Service nurse Alan Thomas Haugh overrode a computer system which would have triggered an immediate response by paramedics.

instead, Mr Haugh, a father of three, told the 65-year-old that his condition did not appear life-threatening, and classed him as a Category C patient rather than Category a.

but Mr Barker was found dead the next day from severe pancreatitis.

a Nursing and Midwifery Council tribunal this week heard it was the latest in a series of blunders.

The hearing yesterday issued a five-year caution but did not strike off Mr Haugh, meaning he can continue practising as a nurse.

Mr Barker’s brother, Richard, called the decision “lenient”. He said: “My initial feeling is one of anger.

“I am shocked that the picture has been painted of a man who has learned from his mistakes and posed no continuing risk to patients and the public.

“It was very clear that he was not fit to practise and he admitted that. I am not sure the decision is adequate, and it has been harrowing to hear that there was a sequence of cases and there was no intervention sooner in getting him out of the control room.”

Had Mr Barker been classed as a Category a patient, an ambulance would have been dispatched.

Mr Barker had outlined his history of heart pain, but Mr Haugh phoned him back and told him to see his doctor and take painkillers.

it was one of four errors between 2005 and 2007 by Mr Haugh, who is in his early 40s and from York, and who now works at Moorlands Care Home in Strensall.

all four saw him overlooking crucial critical symptoms and choosing not to send an ambulance when patients called.

at the tribunal, Mr Haugh, who previously worked for Full Sutton Prison and York Hospital, apologised for letting down the patients’ families. He said the role was not suited to his skills.

He had previously been disciplined after ignoring computer system prompts and failing to send ambulances to a caller who he assumed was hungover when he had actually suffered a skull fracture, to a young girl who burst a Persil liquid capsule over her face and to a woman with abdominal problems who he decided had back trouble. Mr Haugh also admitted speaking to a member of Mr Barker’s family in an unprofessional manner when his actions were challenged.

He said he was better suited to “one-to-one” nursing, and said; “I feel I can be a good nurse again.”

Moorlands manager Helen Lewis told the tribunal Mr Haugh was “confident and experienced”, liked and respected by staff, and would be missed if he was struck off. Christie Brown, representing Mr Haugh, said: “He is somebody who has learned from his mistakes and I submit he is still an asset to the profession.”

Mr Barker’s brother said: “Some of the things said about the way YAS was operating at the time were shocking, but nothing excused him as a professional who did not give the right level of care.

“The family has been left for a long time for the case to come to a consequence, and I think if it had happened immediately after the 2005-2007 period, Haugh would have been struck off and it would have been the right decision.”

The tribunal found Mr Haugh’s fitness to practise was impaired due to malpractice.

Panel member Michael Cann said he failed to uphold YAS’s reputation and provide the duty of care expected of him.

more News stories

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: