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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 18:05 GMT
Man dies after ambulance delays
London ambulance
The ambulance arrived more than 20 minutes after the 999 call
A dying man was sent a rapid-response car instead of an ambulance because two crews were on breaks.

The 21-year-old reportedly collapsed of a heart attack in Tottenham, north London, following a drugs overdose.

An ambulance was eventually found and sent to the scene, arriving almost 20 minutes after the 999 call, but the man died on his way to hospital.

A rapid-response car has all the medical equipment of an ambulance but is unable to take people to hospital.

The car was sent out within five minutes, but an ambulance did not arrive until 18 minutes after the initial call.

'Demanding shifts'

The service's deputy director of operations, Russell Smith, said: "Having checked our records, we can confirm that at the time the 999 call was received, two crews were off duty on a rest break at Tottenham station, and a third crew was undertaking a necessary vehicle change."

Mr Smith went on to defend rest breaks, saying staff working 12-hour shifts could not be expected to work without one.

This did mean that more than one crew from the same station might be on a break at the same time, to ensure all staff had a rest during their "long, demanding shifts", he said.

The incident, which happened on 21 December, came to light after a 73-year-old man died in Edmonton, north east London, when an ambulance arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the 999 call was made.


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