Human error to blame in 999 delay to heart-attack victim

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A DELAY in a 999 emergency call to a man who subsequently died has been blamed on human error.

Dennis Knox, 48, who was originally from Penicuik, suffered a heart attack while at work at Homebase in September.

But a call to the emergency services took four minutes to connect instead of the usual few seconds.

It was revealed at the time that technical difficulties at the Edinburgh control centre in South Queensferry had resulted in all 999 calls being taken on an emergency back-up system.

An investigation has found the delay was caused by a member of staff from BT not following the current procedure, which saw the ambulance arrive at the Galalaw DIY store in 16 minutes instead of 12.

A statement from the Scottish Ambulance Service said BT staff were briefed on the rules when handling emergency calls and further measures had been introduced to ensure calls were transferred.

A spokesman said: “On September 6, while the East Emergency Medical Dispatch Centre was running on contingency systems, there was one adverse incident associated with a delay in receiving a 999 call from BT.

“BT has subsequently given assurances to the SAS that BT operators have been thoroughly briefed on the protocols for call transfer when such contingency arrangements are in operation.

“The SAS also asked independent experts to conduct a wider review of its systems and arrangements for telephony. They identified that the SAS telephony infrastructure and support arrangements are fit for purpose. The SAS continues to monitor its telephony systems.”

The ambulance attended from Selkirk as the Hawick crew was already answering another emergency at the time.

Shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie, who previously called for an enquiry into the case, said: “This is a personal tragedy for the family involved and to discover that there was a degree of human error that is now being rectified through training doesn’t actually help them.”

A BT spokeswoman said a full investigation had been carried out. She said: “BT has been working closely with SAS since the events of September 6 and conducted extensive investigations into the circumstances connected with this very sad incident.

“Since then we have jointly reviewed arrangements for implementing contingencies.”