"Misjudgement of seriousness of injury"

About: South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust / Emergency ambulance

(as a parent/guardian),

My son fell badly during a football match and landed heavily on his back. He was unable to move and in excruciating pain. I am a qualified first aider and examined him before calling 999 for an ambulance. I explained the situation saying that we suspected he had a spinal injury. I answered all the relevant questions and gave the exact location of the football club in Perranporth where he was. 30 minutes later no ambulance had arrived so I rang 999 again and asked if they could tell me how long the ambulance would be. The operator told me that no ambulance had been dispatched as they were "very busy". I reiterated that this was a spinal injury and that my son was unable to move. I also explained that he had now begun to vomit, had blood in his saliva, had problems with his vision and pains down this right leg. The operator said an ambulance would now be dispatched.

Some 25 minutes later the ambulance arrived with two paramedics, by this time my son had been lying face down for almost an hour in extreme pain. The first paramedic felt down my son's spine before declaring that he had a muscular injury and that he should sit up. Despite his protesting that he could not move and was in excruciating pain they insisted that he sit up and gave him entonox for the pain. They then proceeded to manipulate him into a sitting position which he was unable to maintain without holding himself up on his hands. The second paramedic was in the vicinity but was more interested in checking their phone.

Whilst my son was sitting up the first paramedic said they would insert a cannula into his arm so that they could give him some morphine. Their first attempt was unsuccessful and succeeded in only spraying blood over their equipment bag. Their second attempt was more successful after much jabbing and swearing from them,. The bruises from the cannula are still evident almost a week later.

Following this the first paramedic decided perhaps it was best that my son lay down again and both paramedics lowered him back down again..

The decision was then made to move my son on to a stretcher so that he could be placed in the ambulance and taken to A&E. The second paramedic went at the foot of the stretcher and gently lifted it down a step of around 8inches in height but did not communicate to the first paramedic that the step was there. They obviously did not see the step as they then bumped the stretcher down the step causing my son to cry out in agony.

As a first aider I know that the first rule when dealing with a casualty with a suspected spinal injury is not to move them. The paramedics on this occasion saw fit to not only force him to sit up, bear weight through his spine and lie down again but also to drop him down a step whilst on a stretcher. After assessment and a CT scan at A&E it was discovered that my son has 3 fractured vertebrae in his lumber spine and whilst I can only assume this was due to his fall I cannot dismiss the possibility that the situation could have been made worse by the incompetence of the paramedics. The realisation that my son could have, at any time while he was in their "care", been paralysed is very evident to me. I truly feel that they are in danger of causing someone some real harm.

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Response from Sara Coburn, Patient Engagement Manager, Governance, South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust

Dear Ronin,

Thank you for taking the time to share your story with our service. I hope your son is recovering well.

We apologise for the delay in responding to you, however, I understand you have already been in touch with our Patient Experience Team. I hope the team have been able to resolve all your concerns regarding the care afforded to your son. If you do require further information, please contact the Patient Experience Team in the first instance who will have full access to your feedback record.

Again, thank you for taking the time to offer feedback to our service.

Kind regards,


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Update posted by Ronin (a parent/guardian)

Hi Sara, thank you for your response. You are correct, the Patient Experience Team have been in touch with me and have taken action on my behalf. I have to say they have been helpful, thorough and informative throughout the process and I cannot praise them enough. My son is recovering well thank you and is back playing football - unfortunately his injuries don't seem to have improved his skills on the pitch!