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Wife of ambulance boss dies after student was sent as the 999 first responder when she suffered cardiac arrest


The wife of a Scottish Ambulance Service boss has died after a student was sent as the first responder during a 999 emergency.

SAS chairman Tom Steele’s wife Gillian collapsed in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, and an ambulance was called for.

But she died of a suspected cardiac arrest after a student technician was sent to the call-out.

The student had been part of a crew with a qualified paramedic earlier that day, but when they left for a meeting, the trainee was left alone as the first responder.

A back-up crew was sent to assist but Mrs Steele, 69, from Lanark, died.

The student is reported to be a VQ4 technician student, which means they can perform the duties of a qualified technician while on work placements, but only under supervision of another technician or paramedic.

Gillian Steele collapsed

Ambulance chief Tom Steele

Gillian Steele collapsed and died of a suspected cardiac arrest after a student technician was sent to the call-out

The student had been part of a crew with a qualified paramedic earlier that day, but when they left for a meeting, the trainee was left alone as the first responder (Stock Image)

The student had been part of a crew with a qualified paramedic earlier that day, but when they left for a meeting, the trainee was left alone as the first responder (Stock Image)

Ambulance technicians can diagnose and treat a number of illnesses and injuries and work alongside paramedics.

Speaking about the incident, which happened on February 7, an ambulance insider told the Daily Record: ‘The woman needed a fully qualified paramedic but she didn’t get one.

‘The only resource available was a student. We cannot understand why the control room sent a VQ4 student on a paramedic 999 call to someone who had collapsed.

‘Tom Steele is the chairman of SAS and the woman was his wife. There is a huge investigation going on into this.’

Politicians last night demanded answers over student paramedics being used as first responders to 999 emergencies.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Jackie Baillie said: ‘I wish to offer my sincere condolences to Mr Steele for the untimely loss of his wife.

‘It just shows that staffing problems and delays in the ambulance service affect everybody and we need to do more to make sure the service is given adequate resources so they can attend in time.’

Ambulance trade unions have also demanded answers to the issue. Derek Thomson, Scottish secretary for Unite, said: ‘Unite has repeatedly stated that there is a national emergency facing our health services.

‘Unite’s hundreds of members in the Scottish Ambulance Service have been at the frontline of this emergency situation for years and they are telling us that they are fatigued due to being understaffed and working excessive hours.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts and condolences go out to Tom and his family, however, it would be inappropriate for us to offer comment on an individual case.’

When asked about the incident, a spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said last night: ‘We do not comment on individual cases.’



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