Ambulance delay caused PTSD

Posted: 24th February 2014

AccidentA former exhibitions manager at the Natural History Museum has been awarded more than £500,000 damages from the London Ambulance Service after paramedics arrived 17 minutes late to tend her dislocated knee. The incident had left Ceri Leigh, aged 50, suffering an acute form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mrs Leigh had just boarded a London bus when her knee cap dislocated, leaving her in agony and trapped between seats, unable to move. Well-meaning passengers came to her aid, but it took a number of telephone calls and 50 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the scene.

Paramedics gave her pain relief and put her knee back into place. However, the 2008 incident had appalling psychological consequences for Mrs Leigh. She had been stricken with PTSD so severe that she suffered seizures and often collapsed. She had one such episode as she gave evidence.

The High Court found that Mrs Leigh had had to give up her much-loved job due to her condition and that her crushing PTSD and associated seizures were directly attributable to the incident. The London Ambulance Service NHS Trust had admitted liability on the basis that the ambulance had arrived 17 minutes later than it should have done and was ordered to pay damages totalling £522,379.

The pain that Mrs Leigh endured was so great that she still had trouble remembering or talking about the incident. The Court found,  "She has continuing PTSD with flashbacks, nightmares and dissociative seizures. In the flashbacks, she finds herself back on the bus, experiencing the pain and anxiety she felt at the time.

"The nightmares occur nightly, breaking her sleep pattern and leaving her exhausted. The dissociative seizures unexpectedly cause her body to go numb and she collapses. She suffers a collapse most days. She remains conscious but feels nothing and is unable to move or speak.

"She is unable to travel outside on her own. She is largely housebound. When she goes outside with a family member, she may suddenly collapse in the street. She finds it difficult to concentrate, plan and action ordinary activities such as housework and mentally tends to go round and round in circles. She becomes easily overwhelmed."