2005-10-04

Intolerance & Health: NHS24 Telephone Helpline Blamed for Deaths

A grieving father broke down in tears yesterday as he listened to a recording of his daughter pleading for a physician to visit her, just hours before she died of meningitis. Mr.Chondon Miah was allowed to leave 'Aberdeen Sheriff Court' to compose himself after he collapsed sobbing in the witness box on the first day of a dual fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of his only daughter Shomi, 17, and Mr.Steven Wiseman, 30, a joiner from Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire. Both their families have blamed their deaths on delays in receiving treatment through the NHS 24 telephone helpline and have lodged formal complaints against the crisis-torn service... The first day of the hearing was told that when Ms.Miah first called, she was told to' take a couple of paracetamols' and call back if her condition worsened. In the middle of the night she began vomiting, complaining she had pins and needles in her arms and legs and saying her neck and legs were sore. Ms.Shomi Miah, in another phone call to the helpline, was told that doctors only did home visits 'if it is an emergency'. When a GP eventually arrived at the family home, Ms.Shomi Miah was screaming in pain and unable to speak. She was rushed to hospital by ambulance where she died later in the day. Mr.Chondon Miah, 60, a waiter in a Kemnay restaurant, told the court that his only daughter, who had previously been infected by meningitis in 1996, had celebrated her 17th birthday 16 days before she died of the disease. He explained that she had returned home from school on 2004-10-17 last year and had told his wife she was feeling a little cold but that it was 'nothing serious'. By early evening her condition had deteriorated and she had developed a high temperature. Her whole body was shaking and she had a headache and a pain in her neck. One of her four brothers telephoned the helpline service and the nurse adviser who spoke to Ms.Shomi Miah told her to 'take a couple of paracetamols'. Her condition seemed to improve shortly after she took the tablets. Mr.Miah, however, told the inquiry that his daughter's condition worsened in the early hours of the following morning and he telephoned the helpline service. At the start of the taped 15-minute call, often barely audible, Mr.Chondon Miah told an adviser that his daughter had been sick and that she was feeling dizzy. His daughter was then asked to come to the phone. Ms.Shomi Miah told the adviser that she could not move, had pins and needles and had been sick. The adviser, who was aware that she had suffered from meningitis before, then asked her to check for a rash and Ms.Shomi Miah told her:
'I can't see anything right now.'
Ms.Shomi Miah could then be heard asking:
'Can I get a doctor?'
But the adviser told her that GPs only did home visits in an emergency. Mr.Chondon Miah then spoke to the adviser and again asked for a GP to be sent to be his home. But the adviser said it would be quicker for Ms.Shomi Miah to be taken to see a GP at the out-of-hours 'G-Docs' base in Aberdeen as it could take up to fours for a physician to call at the family home. Mr.Chondon Miah told the adviser he could not take his daughter to the bathroom, let alone 'G-Docs'. A physician arrived about 05:30 and gave Ms.Miah an injection and oxygen before she was taken by ambulance to 'Aberdeen Royal Infirmary' where she died around 20:00 that night. Mr.Chondon Miah told Depute Fiscal Mr.Jonathan Ward, that he was looking for answers from the inquiry. He told Sheriff Mr.James Tierney:
'I'm not happy with NHS 24. 'When people are suffering and people are worried about their sister, daughter, son, father, they are going to call NHS 24. 'They need help -- they don't need telephone calls about "paracetamol" or about "Calpol". 'They need to see the face of the patient. 'How can they make a decision by telephone?'
The Dual Fatal Inquiry continues. 'Father weeps at tape of daughter begging for doctor before death', Frank Urquhart, The Scotsman, 2005-10-04, Tu

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