Settlement for family following tragic death of daughter

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Sarah Mulenga had called 999 for an ambulance after collapsing at her home in Barking, East London, in January 2011.Two trainee paramedics, who attended unsupervised, failed to carry out observations or monitoring and did not take her to hospital.

Sarah, 21, later died in hospital of a cardiac arrest. At an inquest into her death, a Coroner found there was a “gross failure to provide basic medical attention”.

The case was referred to clinical negligence specialists at BL Claims Solicitors by the patient safety charity AVMA (Action Against Medical Accidents), and the firm pursued a civil action against the London Ambulance Service on behalf of Sarah’s family.

The firm has reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount on behalf of Sarah’s family, for pain and suffering and funeral expenses, along with a written apology from the Chief Executive of the London Ambulance Service.

Ric Traini of BL Claims Solicitors said:“This is a positive result for family’s Sarah, who were left devastated by the shocking circumstances of her death and suffered significant anguish in knowing that more could and should have been done to help her.

“The family were determined that the coroner’s findings, and their own concerns, should not be ignored. They hope that the apology and acknowledgment of the failures of the London Ambulance Service in failing to treat Sarah will help ensure that future patients will not suffer in similar circumstances.”

Sarah, who had Sickle Cell Disease, was in the final year of studying for a marketing degree in London when she started to become unwell.
She began to suffer from diarrhoea and vomiting at the end of December 2010 and had sought advice from the out of hours team at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex.

On January 9, 2011, Sarah became very unwell at her home in Barking. She called 999 just after 4pm and asked for an ambulance to take her to hospital, explaining that she was feeling very weak.

Her landlady, Chinwe Moneke, made a further 999 call at 4.29pm to explain that Sarah had breathing problems, was unable to speak and had become cold.

The landlady made a further 999 call at 4.47pm in which she explained that Sarah had Sickle Cell Disease.

An ambulance arrived at 4.50pm but the crew did not examine Sarah, who made her way to the toilet where she remained for around 20 minutes.
The ambulance crew left the scene, later claiming that Sarah had been deliberately unco-operative.

Sarah’s sister-in-law arrived at the house at 5.42pm and rang 999 after finding Sarah slumped against the cistern with her eyes closed.An operator talked her through carrying out CPR on Sarah, which she did until ambulance teams arrived at 5.51pm and 5.56pm.

Sarah was transferred to Newham University Hospital where it was found that her heart had stopped and she was in cardiac arrest. By the time she reached the Emergency Department she had been without a pulse for 40 minutes. She was certified dead at 7.24pm.

At the inquest into her death, the Coroner, Chinyere Inyama, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes contributed to by neglect.
He said: “I find the failure to do a basic set of observations means there was a missed opportunity to render care, which would at a minimum have prolonged life or preserved life.”

He added: “There was a gross failure to provide basic medical attention. There was a causal connection between this and death.”

In a written apology, Andrew Grimshaw, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the London Ambulance Service, said: “We would wish to apologise for our failure to provide appropriate care to Sarah. Please accept our sincere condolences for your loss. We very much regret the failings in care.”

Sarah’s family said in a statement: “We are glad this issue has been concluded and that by God’s grace we can now have closure. We would like say thank you to everyone who has helped us during this difficult period.

“Our prayers are that no family or person should ever go through what we have been through. We would like send special thanks to Chinwe Moneke, the Coroner’s Office, Ric at BL Claims Solicitors and Lisa O’Dwyer at AVMA for the tremendous support they provided during this process, and to family and friends including London School of Management and Science, where Sarah was a student.

“We also would like to thank London Ambulance for their understanding and support throughout the entire process."

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