Loving family man died after 55 minute ambulance delay

Jack Skelly
Jack Skelly
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A devastated nurse has claimed her uncle could have survived if an ambulance had not taken 55 minutes to reach his house.

Retired electrician Jack Skelly (71) collapsed at home in Burnley shortly before Christmas, but despite the best efforts of niece Jo Needham, the popular family man died before an ambulance arrived.

His heartbroken niece, a nursing sister of 25 years’ experience, told the Burnley Express she was “angry and upset” at the unacceptable delay on the evening of December 19th.

She said: “I actually live on the same street as Jack. I was out with my son when he collapsed and received a phone call to tell me what happened.

“I went straight to his house and expected the ambulance to be there already. I immediately tried to help. He was breathing and able to hold my hand. Time went on and the ambulance still didn’t arrive.

“We are all devastated. Jack deserved an ambulance. It is absolutely ridiculous the time it took for the ambulance to arrive.

“We made four phone emergency phone calls before one eventually arrived. When paramedics did finally arrive I told them they were too late.

“I cannot say for certain that Jack would have survived but he would have had a better chance if the ambulance had come sooner with the necessary life-saving equipment.”

Mr Skelly was eventually taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

To make matters worse, his wife Suzanne noted a row of ambulances waiting outside the hospital’s accident and emergency department when they arrived.

Mr Skelly was a popular figure in the area where he was often seen gardening and walking his dog Trudy.

Described as a great family man by his niece, he also enjoyed travelling and day trips with his wife, and was a keen amateur genealogist.

A post-mortem examination confirmed he had died as a result of blocked arteries.

Mr Skelly’s family has now lodged an official complaint with the North West Ambulance Service.

North West Ambulance Service has since admitted that experienced “significant delivery challenges in dealing with the general 999 demand over the December, festive and January period.”

Mrs Needham added: “Something needs to be done because, sadly, we are hearing too many of these stories at the moment regarding emergency ambulance delays. We are awaiting the outcome of the ambulance service’s investigation.

“Jack was a loving family man who didn’t ask for anything in his life. He deserved an ambulance to come promptly to help him that night.”

A spokesman for the NWAS said in a statement: “The Trust has experienced significant delivery challenges in dealing with the general 999 demand over the December, festive and January period. The operating environment over recent weeks has been among the most difficult on record.

“The challenge has been two fold, first the increase in 999 calls. Second the major ambulance delays experienced while handing over patients at the hospitals across the region.

“Year to date the Trust has recorded 999 activity increases in excess of 7% (overall) against the previous year with a more than 10% increase in high acuity patients. Operational performance has fallen below the required standard across the region with ambulance trusts around the country struggling to meet standards.

“The average handover time at hospital has increased with a 10 minute average increase, per case when compared with 2015/16. This however masks long delays in handovers many of which have been in excess of four-hours with the real exceptions being nine-hours plus.

“This delay adversely affects the Trusts ability to provide a timely response to patients waiting in the community.

“The Trust strives to reach all patients as quickly as possible but is aware of a number of delays to patients in the community and we absolutely agree that long waits for urgent cases are unacceptable and are extremely frustrating for our staff.

“We would like to assure the public that we are doing all we can with our NHS colleagues to overcome these challenges.”