A coroner has accused the NHS of duping the public by referring to unqualified call handlers as ‘health advisers’ after blaming them for the death of a teenager.
Hannah Royle’s father rang the 111 hotline when she began vomiting and answered a list of questions but was merely told a medic would call back within 12 hours.
However, the 16-year-old’s condition worsened and her mother Anne rang again three hours later saying she was suffering severe stomach pain.
Anne Royle, 53, pictured with her late daughter, Hannah Royle, 16, who suddenly died after a twisted intestine led to catastrophic brain damage
However, instead of dispatching an ambulance, the adviser told Mrs Royle, 53, to take her daughter to A&E herself.
But Hannah stopped breathing in the car and her mother desperately carried out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as her father Jeff, 56, raced to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill.
Tragically, the teenager had suffered catastrophic brain damage.
Tests revealed she had a twisted intestine and while surgery was successful she never woke up, dying just over a week later in June last year.
Now coroner Karen Henderson has issued a hard-hitting report, saying Hannah should have been taken to hospital after the first call, in which case she would have survived.
She warned that renaming NHS 111 call handlers as ‘health advisers’ was ‘misleading as it implies professionalism which is untrue given their underlying skills’.
This meant those calling 111 for help are ‘ill-informed’ with a ‘real risk they are being misled’ over its ‘role and capability’, she added.
Hannah is the latest of more than 20 deaths linked to the hotline since 2016 when it replaced the nurse-led NHS Direct.
Speaking at West Sussex Coroner’s Court, coroner Karen Henderson issued a hard-hitting report that says Hannah should have been taken to hospital after the first call
‘Yesterday her grieving parents warned the problems afflicting NHS 111 would cost more lives and slammed it as ‘completely unfit for purpose’.
They are now taking legal action. Hannah, of Horsham, West Sussex, enjoyed a full and active life despite a severe learning disability which left her unable to speak.
The West Sussex assistant coroner said that Hannah’s condition – gastric volvulus – could not have been diagnosed over the phone.
But her father’s ‘articulate’ call meant ‘it should have been recognised Hannah was acutely unwell and needed urgent care’.
In July, the coroner concluded Hannah died of natural causes contributed to by neglect.
Now she has written a ‘prevention of future deaths’ report spelling out how the teenager was failed.
A copy has been sent to NHS England’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard.
Last night a spokesman for the NHS said it was ‘in the process of answering the coroner’s report’.