Bristol

South Western Ambulance Service sorry for police call

An ambulance service has apologised for calling police to an elderly Bristol couple's home because they mistakenly feared the woman's life was in danger.

John Histon's wife Betty was suffering from chronic lung illness when he called the 111 non-emergency number.

But call centre staff became concerned when he used the word "suffocated" in their conversation.

Mr Histon said his heart "hit the floor" when he was accused of something "he had no intention of doing".

"They'd obviously misinterpreted what I'd said... and asked to come in to check my wife.

"I thought it was a hoax... she was in a deep sleep where she wouldn't wake up for five hours sometimes... they wanted me to wake her up and question her.

"I said [even] if she did wake up she's going to get startled and maybe have a shock."

South Western Ambulance Service said the "safeguarding referral" to police "could have been managed differently".

'Claim denied'

When Mr Histon, 70, rang for paramedics after becoming concerned over his wife's deteriorating health, one suggested the couple bought a blood oxygen monitor in order to negate further unnecessary calls.

But Mr Histon said the advice made it sound like he and his wife "were an expensive burden to the system" - a claim flatly denied by the service.

When he phoned 111 the next day he mentioned what had happened in the previous visit but agreed that he had used the expression "best to get her to suffocate" - a reference to his view that he believed his wife was being seen as a cash burden on the NHS.

The call handler discussed the conversation with a supervisor who contacted police.

Mr Histon has since received a letter of apology from the trust.

Mrs Histon died earlier this year.

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