The family of Bonnie Mason, woman who died after a 999 call was not given the correct priority, have spoken of their loss, and the hope changes will prevent the same mistake happening again.
Tom Mason kissed his wife Bonnie goodbye. Her life-support machine would soon be switched off. Less than 24 hours before, Mrs Mason had slipped on the steep stairs of their Suffolk home, leaving her with head injuries that were to prove fatal. As Tom, 37, returned home from Ipswich Hospital, broken with grief, his father, a doctor, felt helpless.
Blankly checking his emails, Dr Andrew Mason learned that his latest research paper - on improving the survival chances of patients with blocked airways - had been accepted for publication. It was the most grim of ironies - after falling more than 12 feet, Bonnie had lain unconscious, a partly obstructed airway restricting the vital flow of oxygen to her brain. By the time paramedics arrived - 38 minutes after her desperate husband had dialled 999 - Bonnie was already close to death, with fixed and dilated pupils. She never regained consciousness.
As the family struggled to come to terms with their loss, Dr Mason, an international expert in trauma airway management who had trained paramedics across East Anglia for more than a decade, was haunted by one simple question: why had the ambulance taken so long?
His long search for the truth has exposed critical risks in the 999 call-handling system used by 11 of England’s 12 ambulance services. Last week an inquest examined the part that software blunders played in Mrs Mason’s death. But no one knows how many lives may have been put at risk across the country because of dangers that have existed for more than a decade.