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999 error led to death of eight-year-old boy

Date published: 28 August 2014

An eight-year-old Hathershaw boy died when the ambulance service failed to classify him as a priority case.

Clayton Barker died of an asthma attack - but his life might have been saved had a call handler not made a mistake which resulted in an ambulance not being sent more quickly.

His grieving mother is taking legal action against the North West Ambulance Service over the error.

Clayton collapsed at his grandmother Elaine’s house in Derker in March 2013, after a wheezing fit. An ambulance service call handler asked if Clayton was struggling to talk between breaths and Elaine said yes - but the handler wrote no. As a result the ambulance arrived at 7.40pm after a second call had been made, rather than more than 10 minutes earlier. By this time Clayton had collapsed. He was confirmed dead at the Royal Oldham Hospital at 8.02pm.

The questions asked by call handlers are designed to help NWAS staff to determine case priority. Clayton had mistakenly been classified the less serious green rather than high-priority red.

Senior coroner Simon Nelson said: “The evidence at inquest confirmed that the first of two emergency 999 calls was not processed in line with best practice. Had the correct response been given an ambulance would have arrived before and not after his collapse. In the balance of probability, his chances of survival would have been enhanced.”

Clayton’s mother Gemma Barker is taking legal action because her son’s life could potentially have been saved.

Solicitor Zak Golombeck, for Ms Barker, said: “The evidence was unambiguous. Gemma’s loss is not something words can describe. Clayton was a happy and lively young boy, he will be deeply missed by his family, especially his two brothers.”

Angela Lees, acting service manager for the Greater Manchester ambulance control room, said that after an internal investigation no further action would be taken.

She said: “It was an individual error and I do not believe there needs to be a change in the procedure.

“An ambulance probably would have been available.”