Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 15:30 UK

'Stressed' paramedic wins damages

Ambulance (generic)
The judge said control staff should perform a risk assessment

A paramedic who suffered post traumatic stress disorder after he was sent alone to attend to a collapsed drug addict has won a claim for damages.

Colin Smith, 50, claimed he should have been ordered to stand down until police arrived to help with the incident in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

Mr Smith was left traumatised when he was threatened by two other men.

A judge at Chester County Court accepted his claim against Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust.

Mr Smith was called to an incident at a shed in an alleyway in the west end of Rhyl in 2001, an area with high crime levels at the time.

There was no policy requiring control staff to exercise such intelligence and no training to enable them to do so
Judge Derek Halbert

A transcript of a radio call between Mr Smith and ambulance control shows how he was concerned at being told the patient had been found lying among several syringes.

"Have the police been informed? Over"

"Yeah, we're contacting the police now, over."

"I don't want to be the next body down the alleyway. Over."

"Yeah, we appreciate that. Over."

However, when Mr Smith arrived at the scene, the police were not present.

He decided to treat the patient, but two men appeared in the shed and one threatened him.

In evidence, Mr Smith said he "froze" as the man approached him, shouting, and was standing so close he could feel spit in his face.

Sirens

The men left when they heard sirens approaching, but the court heard Mr Smith was left traumatised by the incident.

Shortly after, another ambulance crew and police attended the scene.

In a judgement handed down in March, His Honour Derek Halbert ruled in favour of Mr Smith.

He said there were "several" hazards which indicated Mr Smith should not have been sent in alone, and control staff should have had the discretion to instruct him to wait.

He said: "I therefore find that in not allowing the control staff this discretion, and in not providing them with guidance on how to use it, the trust both purported to delegate a non-delegable duty and failed in their duty of care to the claimant."

Training

The judge accepted that the final decision whether to "go in" rested with paramedics, but said Mr Smith had not been given the necessary training to allow him to properly assess the situation.

But the trust had a "clear duty" to ensure a paramedic was not placed in such a situation "unless it is necessary and unavoidable by any other reasonable action".

He added: "On the evidence before me in this case I find on balance of probability that at the time of the incident concerned, no such intelligence was being applied. There was no policy requiring control staff to exercise such intelligence and no training to enable them to do so."

A further hearing to discuss costs was held in private on Monday.

The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust said it was unable to comment.




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