Grieving mum hits out at police over emergency call
PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 March 2011 | UPDATED: 11:26 11 March 2011
Copyright Archant Ltd
THE mother of a man who overdosed on pills has paid tribute to her son after a coroner recorded a verdict of suicide.
Christofer Walker, who was aged 27, overdosed on more than 30 pills which he had been prescribed for a rare heart condition.
But his mother, Carol Bagg, still believes the emergency services could have done more to save her son, after his 999 call was downgraded by staff at the Avon and Somerset police call centre in Portishead.
Mr Walker, who had a history of alcohol problems and attempted overdoses on prescription drugs, died on February 12, after consuming the pills and drinking cans of cider.
The inquest at Flax Bourton heard that Mr Walker had been ‘alcohol dependant’ and had been admitted to Juniper Ward at Weston General Hospital on January 21 for help with ‘detoxification’ from his alcohol problem, but was discharged on January 24 having been prescribed several types of drug, including diazepam.
Mr Walker had been prescribed the drug Flecainide as a treatment for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition which can lead to a very rapid heartbeat.
The inquest heard evidence from Great Western Ambulance technician Philip Carson that on February 10 he was called to Mr Walker’s home in Jubilee Road. Mr Walker had dialled 999 and told the operator he had swallowed around 30 pills.
After arriving just after 1.30am, Mr Carson said he had not been made aware of which flat number Mr Walker lived at by staff at the Avon and Somerset Police call handling centre, and only after the 999 call centre rang him did he open the door to the technician.
After going into the flat Mr Carson said he had to prevent Mr Walker from swallowing more pills, before calling for an ambulance.
After the ambulance arrived, Mr Carson said that a ‘groggy’ Mr Walker had told him ‘I’ve had enough, I just want to die’ while refusing to be taken to hospital.
It was only when Mr Walker lost consciousness, at around 2.40am, that medics could take him to Weston General Hospital.
Having suffered a cardiac arrest he was resuscitated, but died at 11.58am a day-and-a-half later.
Although a medical report said only a stomach pump used within an hour of swallowing the pills would have been an antidote to the drugs, Mrs Bagg still believes a speedier response may have saved her son.
The call, which was originally identified as a ‘priority’ rating, was downgraded to ‘deployment without resource’ by a supervisor at the police call handling centre.
Although coroner Terrence Moore absolved staff at the centre of any blame, Chief Inspector Kevin Rowlands, representing Avon and Somerset police, said changes had been made to the way calls were handled following Mr Walker’s death.
Mrs Bagg said: “Christofer was a kind, loving lad who had had problems, and I think he was let down by the emergency services.
“I don’t want to blame the ambulance technicians, who were only doing their jobs, but the way the call was handled led to a lot of confusion and that was what led to a lot of time being wasted.
“We’re not happy with the way the investigation went, but unfortunately we can’t do anything about it now.”