Annals of Government Medicine

Problems in the UK’s emergency response system have come to light. The Telegraph headlines, “Woman left to die after 999 ambulance blunder:”

An investigation into a woman’s death has exposed a catastrophic decision by ambulance chiefs which may have cost hundreds of lives. The blunder arose when call centre staff were not warned of flaws with a computer system that prioritises emergencies before dispatching ambulances.
Bonnie Mason, 58, fell down the stairs and died from a head injury after 999 controllers in Suffolk failed to identify her situation as “life-threatening”.
Her family could not understand why it took so long for an ambulance to be sent to the dying nurse, whose husband had explained that she was unconscious, and breathing abnormally after falling more than 12ft last May.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered a critical danger placed in the software used by most ambulance services. For years, 999 calls in life-threatening situations like Mrs Masons’s were accidentally “downgraded”, with call handlers told not to send the most urgent response. …
The danger in the system was created by the country’s most senior ambulance officials as they altered the program used by most control centres in an attempt to manage demand for 999 services.
Most ambulance services use an international computerised system designed in America. In the US version, a fall of more than 6ft receives the maximum priority response. However, the government committee which governs its use in this country decided that such cases should be deemed less urgent
, and excluded from an eight minute category A target response time. …
As a result, Mrs Mason lay unconscious for more than 38 minutes.

Why on earth would anyone want health care decisions to be made by a centralized authority, least of all a “government committee”?

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