A grandmother from Luton suffered a fatal heart-attack just 12 hours after a nurse ignored warnings to dispatch an ambulance.
Janine Balneaves, 64, from St Ann’s Hill, called the medical helpline on 9 March 2017, at 5.20pm after suffering with shooting pains in her chest, neck and shoulders.
By the time the medical professional from Care UK called her back at 6.30pm, Janine, who also suffered from multiple sclerosis, was in too much pain to answer her questions, instead relying on her husband, Martin, 64, to convey her deteriorating condition.
Ignoring Janine’s protests that the pains were not linked to her MS, the nurse did not consider Janine’s ‘red flag’ symptoms serious enough.
Instead she overruled the 111 computer’s safety guard system and ignored its advice to send an ambulance or GP to the home in Luton, within the next two hours.
She advised the couple to book an appointment with a GP the next day.
Tragically Martin discovered his wife’s body at 8am the following morning, after trying to wake her with a cup of tea.
The family have called for Care UK, the out of hours service who NHS 111 passed the case to, to take responsibility for their role in Janine’s death.
The couple’s daughter Gemma, mother to two of their grandchildren, said: “The computer told the nurse to send an ambulance or a GP to see Mum at home but she chose to ignore this clear advice.
“She made the decision to go against a procedure, specifically designed to keep people safe.
“My mother went to them in her hour of need and they catastrophically let her down. In our opinion she raised red flag after red flag but all of these warnings were ignored.”
Earlier that day Janine had called her family doctor for results of a urine infection test. The mother-of-two mentioned the pains in her neck and chest but as they were minimal at the time, the GP focused on the infection.
By the evening the pain had got significantly more aggressive, prompting the couple to call NHS 111 for help.
Gemma, also based in Luton, said: “My mum has suffered from bouts of MS for the last 25 years and she knew that this pain was distinctly different.
“Both my parents tried to explain this over the phone but I don’t believe they were taken seriously.
“She had suffered with MS for 25 years, so she knew what pain related to her condition. It is hard to comprehend that when she asked for help, she was ultimately denied it.”
Notes written by the nurse, show the pain as documented as “not Red Flag shoulder pain” and were due to her pre-existing, long-term condition.
Gemma said: “My dad also explained that they could not leave the home easily to get to any physical medical attention, due to mums declining health and her limited mobility.
“My parents are the sort of people who would not want to waste people’s time unnecessarily, or drain NHS resources. They, like most people, take medical advice on face value and trust a professional’s opinion.
“As a family this is incredibly hard to stomach and a burden that is exasperated by an acute concern that this individual may still be providing expert advice in the same position.”
The family have now launched legal action against Care UK.
A spokesman for Care UK said: “We have apologised to Mrs Balneaves’ family and have put in place measures to ensure that lessons are learned from this very sad case, in particular to reduce any risk that a patient’s new symptoms may be mis-interpreted as a result of their pre-existing medical conditions. We have been in contact with the family’s solicitors since our investigation into the sad event and are continuing to review the case.”
Adefolaju Sanda, a clinical negligence lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who is representing the family, said: “When you call a trusted medical provider for help, you believe you are being provided with an expert opinion and that they are adhering to the correct procedures to keep you safe.
“In Janine’s case it is clear that the measures Care UK have in place were circumnavigated by the professional, leading to catastrophic results. A decision, which has left a family
A spokesperson for the Luton Clinical Commissioning Group said: “NHS Luton Clinical Commissioning Group (LCCG) can confirm that South Central Ambulance Service were the provider of the NHS 111 service for Luton and Care UK were the provider of the clinical out of hours service as at the time of Mrs Balneaves death.
“Care UK undertook a serious incident review to investigate the circumstances and this investigation was monitored and overseen by LCCG.
“As part of national policy Luton CCG now commission an Integrated Urgent Care Service that came in effect on 1st April 2017 which brings together NHS111 and out of hours service.”