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£5m payout for brain damaged Archway woman made to wait 100 minutes for ambulance

Caren Paterson  (Picture: Irwin Mitchell) Caren Paterson (Picture: Irwin Mitchell)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
2:32 PM

An Archway woman left brain damaged after having to wait more than 100 minutes for an ambulance has been awarded a compensation package worth £5million.

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When Caren Paterson collapsed in the bedroom of her flat in Hargrave Road, in October 2007, her boyfriend called 999 reporting that she was unconscious, breathing abnormally and her lips had turned blue.

But because her address was inexplicably flagged as being on the “high risk” register, the ambulance crew was told to wait for a police escort, law firm Irwin Mitchell said.

There were no police available at the time and, despite two more 999 calls, the emergency medical team waited for over an hour just 100 metres from the flat.

Ms Paterson eventually suffered a cardiac arrest, five minutes before police and an ambulance team arrived.

The delay has left the 36-year-old, who was working as a genetic scientist at King’s College, with chronic amnesia, confusion and disorientation with the result she will never work again and need 24-hour care for the rest of her life.

Today, Judge Richard Parkes QC approved a settlement against London Ambulance Service NHS Trust consisting of a £1.4m lump sum plus lifelong annual payments.

He paid tribute to the support and devotion of Caren’s mother, Eleanor Paterson, from Warkworth, Northumberland, who was at London’s High Court for the hearing.

Afterwards, Mrs Paterson said: “My daughter was a successful and ambitious scientist but it is so distressing that all of her aspirations and ambitions have been taken away from her because of her brain injury.

“I was determined to ensure Caren had access to the best possible care and support for the rest of her life and it is such a huge relief that the settlement has been approved today.

“Clearly we would rather not be in this situation at all and nothing will ever return our daughter to how she was before. But it is a weight off our minds to know that she will now be able to continue to receive the care, treatment and specialist attention that she needs.

“The thought of an ambulance crew sitting waiting round the corner while my daughter lay in her flat as her condition went from serious to life-threatening, causing irreparable damage to her brain, is still shocking and I hope no-one ever has to go through what we have.”

Philip Havers QC, for the trust, expressed its “sincere apologies” to the family for the shortcomings which had occurred and said it hoped and believed that the damages would go a long way to providing for Ms Paterson’s needs in the future.

And after the hearing, the trust’s deputy director of operations Katy Millard repeated the organisation’s apologies and said “significant changes” had been made to the register over the last seven years.

“Of the three million households in London, there are now only around 600 addresses on the register,” she said.

“Now, our crews assess each situation themselves when they get to the scene and will only ever delay treatment if they believe they are in danger.”

Lawyer John Davis, of Irwin Mitchell, said Ms Paterson was currently receiving care at a specialist unit but it was hoped eventually she might live in her own home with a team of well-trained brain injury carers.

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