Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 12:58 UK

Paramedic 'morphine errors' investigated

Matt Precey
BBC News

Ambulance generic
The trust would not say if the morphine worsened the patients' conditions

A woman died and another became seriously ill soon after being given morphine by paramedics, despite family members warning of the patients' allergies to the drug.

The incidents were revealed in documents obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act and are understood to have taken place in Cambridgeshire within months of each other.

The first patient died a week after the alleged incident and the second had to be given emergency life-saving treatment, although it remains unclear whether the administration of the drug contributed directly to either person's deterioration.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said both incidents were "subject to a thorough investigation".

The trust also said it did not amend its policies in relation to these incidents, but refused to give details of its findings.

Within minutes the patient was unwell and had to be admitted to A&E for urgent life-saving treatment
East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust Adverse Incident Report

The first incident, detailed in the trust's Adverse Incident Reporting System, is dated 9 August 2008 and states: "We attended the patient and the carer told the crew not to give the patient morphine as she was allergic to it.

"On her arrival the complainant, who is the patient's daughter, also instructed the crew not to give the patient morphine for the same reason.

"In spite of this, the crew said they were going to give the patient morphine and proceeded to do this.

"On arrival at Hinchingbrooke Hospital the patient had to be ventilated four hours later due to breathing difficulties. The patient died one week later.

"The daughter wishes to clarify if the actions were contributory to her death."

'Very sick'

The other notification also from the East of England Ambulance Trust's Adverse Incident Reporting System, is dated 12 December 2008.

It said: "The patient (with a history of heart problems) was suffering chest pain and her husband called 999 for an emergency ambulance.

"Upon the paramedic's arrival he specifically informed the paramedic not to administer morphine as the patient was allergic to it and would make her very sick.

"He gave the paramedic a sheet of paper with the patient's medicines printed on it as well as her allergies and medical history. The paper states 'allergies -morphine'.

"Despite these instructions the paramedic administered morphine by injection. Within minutes the patient was unwell and had to be admitted to A&E for urgent life-saving treatment."

The notification said the complaint was received from the patient's husband via Age Concern, but Age Concern said they had no record of it.

On both occasions, a Serious Untoward Incident report was generated and sent to the East of England Strategic Health Authority.

The East of England Ambulance Service did not say if the staff concerned had been disciplined in relation to what happened and declined to provide further information because "this could cause the subjects or their families to become identifiable".



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