Ambulance confusion “unlikely” to have contributed to death of 14-year-old Ellie Keeling, Huntingdon inquest hears

Ellie Keeling, aged 14. Ellie Keeling, aged 14.

Thursday, March 6, 2014
8:53 AM

A teenage girl suffered such a severe asthma attack that it may have been too late to save her even if an ambulance had not been delayed by confusion over postcodes, an inquest was told today (Wednesday).

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A teenage girl suffered such a severe asthma attack that it may have been too late to save her even if an ambulance had not been delayed by confusion over postcodes, an inquest was told today (Wednesday).

On the second day of evidence at Huntingdon Law Courts, coroner David Morris was told that Hinchingbrooke School pupil Elouise Keeling, 14, of Grafham Road, Ellington, had suffered a “catastrophic” attack leading to loss of consciousness while training with the air cadets at RAF Brampton on June 25 last year.

Giving evidence, expert witness John Heyworth, a consultant in emergency medicine, said: “The combination of circumstances here, I’m afraid, constituted circumstances of rapid catastrophic deterioration and death in patients with asthma.”

In his judgement, by the time the paramedics reached her side – believed to be at around 8.02pm - it was unlikely that her life could have been saved, he said.

Recording his verdict, coroner David Morris said: “Given the timelines established and the severity of her condition it is unlikely that she would have survived in any event.

“Whilst there was a delay and it is realised that earlier intervention generally leads to better outcomes, it is likely in this case on the balance of probabilities and given the rapidity of her deterioration that earlier intervention would have been unlikely to have had any bearing on the outcome.

“The ambulance service have been found wanting and have addressed these issues. They are mindful of the tragic events and have already taken many steps to address the issues that the family have raised and I am aware also that the East of England Ambulance Service is carrying out its own review of procedures.”

In a statement from Elouise’s family, their legal representative Peter Collins said: “The past two days have been an emotional and testing time for the family. Whilst some questions will inevitably remain unanswered, they have finally been provided with an account of the events that led to the death of Elouise.”

They also expressed their gratitude to the coroner for the sensitive way in which the inquest was handled and explained that they will now set up a charity – ‘The Elouise Keeling Memorial Asthma Trust’ – to raise awareness of asthma in children.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “We have met with Elouise’s family to explain what happened and apologise for the delay in getting an ambulance to her.

“Unfortunately we used a postcode rather than a road name. Both RAF Wyton and RAF Brampton had the same postcode despite being some miles apart. This meant that we didn’t get an ambulance to Elouise until 15 minutes after the 999 call and despite the efforts of staff including an air ambulance doctor Elouise died.

“A full internal investigation has led to a number of changes being made to the way we work to prevent such tragic incidents from happening again. This includes new processes for verifying addresses and flagging up concerns more quickly. We have met with the family to discuss these actions.”

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