Widow Makes Claim for a Wrongful Death due to an Ambulance Delay

The widow of a man who died from meningitis after waiting six hours for her husband to be taken to hospital is making a claim for a wrongful death due to an ambulance delay.

On 5th January this year, Lisa Armitage called the NHS 111 service worried about the condition of her husband Mthuthuzeli Mpongwana (37), who was complaining of a headache, fever and difficulty focusing in bright lights.

The 111 clinician recognised that Mthuthuzeli may be displaying the symptoms of meningitis and summoned an ambulance. However, the rapid response unit took three hours to arrive, during which time Mthuthuzeli became confused and delirious, and his skin turned grey.

The paramedic failed to recognise the symptoms of meningitis and downgraded the ambulance response to the lowest priority – meaning that an ambulance to take Mthuthuzeli from the couple´s home in Bedminster to the Bristol Royal Infirmary failed to arrive for another three hours.

When Mthuthuzeli was eventually admitted to hospital, his eyes were bulging and he had lost control of his limbs. He was taken straight to the resuscitation room, where he suffered a stroke and his brain began to swell. Lisa was told there was nothing more that could be done to save her husband, and Mthuthuzeli died when he was taken off life support on January 7th.

The inquest into Mthuthuzeli´s death found that he had died from natural causes “contributed to by a failure to take appropriate action”. The coroner said that a priority one back up ambulance should have been summoned when the rapid response unit had first arrived at the family home, and that benzo penicillin should have been administered. According to the coroner, the inappropriate level of care “resulted in a missed opportunity to render medical treatment”.

Following the inquest and a the results of a Serious Incident Report, in which failings were identified in the standard of care provided by the South West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Lisa contacted solicitors and made a claim for a wrongful death due to an ambulance delay. It is not yet known whether the NHS Trust will accept liability without further legal action.