Northwick Park Hospital: Woman dies trapped inside ambulance with a faulty lift

21 October 2014

Northwick Park Hospital: Woman dies trapped inside ambulance with a faulty lift

Photo credit: London Evening Standard/Chris Myers

A diabetic woman has died trapped in the back of an ambulance after its tail lift broke, necessitating emergency treatment outside A&E in the hospital forecourt.

Sophia Bhanji, 39,  was originally taken to Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow with symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Due to the trolley bed on which she was being treated developing a fault, she could not be lowered out of the vehicle, delaying the ability to transfer her to the hospital. The delay mean hospital doctors, including a resuscitation team, tried to save her life in the back of the ambulance fighting for close to an hour-deciding not to carry her out of the ambulance.

Mistreatment.com has assisted members of the public in cases where ambulance transfer times from the vehicle itself to A&E has resulted in avoidable harm to patients, and in some cases even fatalities. This problem has seen to particularly acute in Wales and reinforces the pressure ambulance fleets currently face with patient transfer times where time is of the essence and prompt treatment is urgently required.

Ms Bhanji, from Wembley, subsequently went into cardiac arrest in the back of the ambulance and was pronounced dead at approximately 4am last Wednesday.

A family friend told the Evening Standard newspaper: “They had their suspicions something was wrong, because she was being treated in the ambulance for a long time… Now they know there was a fault with the ambulance and they will want to know how this could have affected the treatment she received. The uncertainty will add to their grief as they will want to know if she could have been saved.”

Miss Bhanji’s sister Rehanna, 34, wrote on Facebook: “I lost a part of my heart and life. Sophia Bhanji passed away. My big sister gone in heaven. You are an angel I miss you so much.”

An investigation was swiftly commenced according to the London Ambulance Service.  It could not explain why Miss Bhanji was not carried out of the ambulance. The ambulance itself, a five-year-old Mercedes Sprinter, normally stationed at the North Kensington ambulance station, has been taken out of service.

Worryingly, the LAS board was warned of “ongoing pressures” last month due to an “ageing fleet”. The repair bill the LAS subsequently faced led to the budget going over  by £800,000 over budget since April. The vehicles are maintained by in-house mechanics.

An LAS source said: “I’m shocked and saddened but in a way I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before. The equipment we are having to use is in a terrible state of repair.”

A LAS spokeswoman said: “We are aware that there was an issue with the tail lift and we are looking into the circumstances of what happened.”

London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Northwick Park, declined to speak to the Evening Standard which broke the news, saying it was a matter for LAS as the patient had not been transferred into its care.

North London coroner’s court said it had yet to be decided if an inquest would be opened.

Patient Care Options

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