Schoolboy, 15, suffering deadly asthma attack died after 999 call 'downgraded' in computer mix-up, inquest told
A SCHOOLBOY suffering a deadly asthma attack died after a 999 call was downgraded in a computer bungle, an inquest has heard.
Martin Sullivan, 15, was fighting for breath – but as he was still conscious and breathing, the call wasn't categorised as a life-threatening emergency.
As a result, paramedics didn't treat the case as a priority, and Martin's father was forced to rush his son to hospital himself.
Tragically, medics at Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester were unable to revive the talented young musician.
A probe revealed an ambulance eventually arrived at the family home in Ashton-under-Lyne 80 minutes after a 999 call was made.
The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) later said a crew assigned to deal with Martin had been ''tied up'' on another call.
An inquest has now heard Martin, a Year 11 student, had previously been admitted to hospital twice suffering with severe asthma attacks.
He was taking medication for the condition, but on November 24 2019 awoke his dad Roy to say he couldn't breathe.
Mr Sullivan first called an ambulance at 6.10am.
He said his son's condition worsened and he called emergency services again ten minutes later.
''I told the operator that Martin’s condition was getting worse," he said.
"The operator again said an ambulance was on its way but we waited for 20 minutes and it did not arrive.
''I put Martin in my car myself at 6.50am and left and during the journey, I spoke to Martin to try to keep him alert.
"I was shocked on the way to see there were two ambulances parked in front of the depot and did not understand why none had been sent to our house.
“Martin then became unresponsive in the car and we arrived at A&E at 7am.
"The doctors said Martin may not survive and he was pronounced dead at 8.23am as there was nothing they could do to bring my son back.
"Later that evening, two paramedics told me they were 16 miles away.''
There is simply no excuse. There should have been more resources.
He said the ambulance service "didn't understand the gravity" of Martin's condition.
"I told the operator on the 999 call that he was struggling for air – yet my call to 999 was classified as a category two," he said.
“Had Martin been assessed as a category one, I wonder if he would have got the treatment he needed.
"The service was obviously stretched and unable to cope with high demand.
"But people shouldn’t lose their lives over this. There is simply no excuse. There should have been more resources.
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"Martin was a conscientious and loving boy. We will miss him for the rest of our lives."
Daniel Smith, interim head of service for Greater Manchester at the ambulance service, told the hearing call handlers would “ask specific questions and a computer algorithm will then determine the category of the call” based on the answers.
The hearing, in Stockport, continues.
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