Thetford: Mum tells of ambulance delays as death of her three-month-old daughter is investigated

Bella Louise Hellings, who died after paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service took 30

Bella Louise Hellings, who died after paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service took 30 minutes to respond to a 999 call. - Credit: Archant

A MOTHER described how she attempted to resuscitate her child as she waited for almost 30 minutes for paramedics to respond to a 999 call.

Three-month-old Bella Louise Hellings died on March 11 and was one of the serious cases mentioned on the front of yesterday’s East Anglian Daily Times over which the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) is facing questions.

Her mother, Amy Carter, from Thetford, called 999 after her daughter had a fit and stopped breathing.

She stayed on the phone to the operator and started CPR until paramedics finally arrived after 26 minutes.

The most urgent 999 calls are supposed to be responded to within eight minutes.


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When they arrived at her home near Bury Road in Thetford paramedics got Bella into the ambulance and rushed to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

But according to Miss Carter there was a further delay as the crew did not know where they were going.

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Her partner, Scott Hellings, 24, arrived at the hospital before the ambulance, despite leaving from Thetford at the same time.

Miss Carter said: “They went the wrong way. They followed the satnav and it was a paramedic from Diss on her first shift ever. It was her first day.”

She said that she was shouting from the back of the ambulance to try and direct the driver as they went around one roundabout in Bury St Edmunds twice and headed through Bury town centre to the hospital rather than sticking on the dual carriageway.

“She was taken into hospital and that is the last I saw of her,” Miss Carter said.

An inquest into Bella’s death was opened on March 22 by Norfolk’s coroner and the case is now being investigated.

The ambulance service wrote to the family last week and visited Miss Carter on Wednesday to say they would look into what happened.

The couple, who have one other child, are now taking legal advice.

At a board meeting yesterday, John Martin, director of clinical quality said the trust had received nine “serious incident” complaints in March in which four patients had died following ambulance delays. The trust had said in a report it was investigating five deaths.

The serious incidents where patients died occurred in Thetford, Clacton, Ipswich, and another in Essex, whilst three other of the incidents were in the Norwich area, where there were delays in getting ambulances to patients.

Mr Martin said: “All of those are currently being investigated and at this stage there is no correlation between the patients’ death and the process going wrong. We run an emergency service and patients do die and we need to be clear about the correlation between the two. We are one of the biggest and busiest ambulance trusts in the country and we would expect more incidents.”

During the whole of 2012/13, the ambulance trust received 1,175 complaints, which was a 71pc increase on the 687 complaints during the previous 12 months.

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