Baby dies after paramedics take 40 minutes to arrive

The mother of a dying three-day old baby spent seven minutes on the phone waiting for someone to answer a 999 call – before waiting another 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive, an inquest has heard. Wyllow-Raine Swinburn was pronounced dead five minutes after arriving at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital in the early hours of September 30 last year.

Her family had spent 40 minutes giving her CPR as they waited for an ambulance to arrive at their home shortly after her mother Amelia Pill raised the alarm, Oxford Coroners Court was told. Ms Pill dialled 999 after trying to breastfeed her baby and noticing that her face was stone cold.

Her mother was screaming ‘no one’s coming, no one’s coming’ and cried ‘why aren’t they answering the f***ing phone’ as she waited for someone to answer the distress call, the inquest heard. Karen Sillicorn-Aston, clinical governance lead for the South Central Ambulance Service, told the court the 999 call was made at 4.38am and was connected five minutes later.

It was connected by a BT operator whose job it is to listen in to all calls before they are answered. Sillicorn-Aston said rules state the BT operator should pass the call to another service, which in this case was the East of England Ambulance Service. It took five minutes for the call to be transferred and the family remained on the line for two further minutes before the call was picked up.

The closest ambulance, which was 20 to 25 minutes away, was dispatched but a closer one was later found and sent instead. However, it still took 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive. By the time the ambulance arrived, the baby’s body temperature had fallen to 30.8C despite the room temperature being normal before she collapsed, the hearing was told.

Pathologist Dr Darren Fowler told the hearing the baby’s cause of death was ‘more likely than not’ to have been natural. However, he said he was not the most qualified person to answer questions about whether she would have survived if an ambulance had arrived sooner. Her provisional cause of death was recorded as sudden unexpected death in infancy, with the cause of the collapse being unexplained.

She had been born weighing 10 pounds and five ounces and via a caesarean section on September 27 2022 and appeared to be healthy. However lawyers for the family raised concerns that she may have had diabetes that had gone unnoticed by doctors as ambulance service records revealed she had ‘very low’ blood glucose levels.

The newborn’s grandmother Anna Fisher told the hearing in evidence read out by the coroner that the baby was crying with a fever when she was taken to bed at the family home in Didcot, Oxfordshire at around midnight that night. Her daughter phoned her just after 4am to say the baby did not appear to be breathing.

Her brother arrived and performed CPR. He said in his statement that her skin colour changed ‘like when you get a bruise’ as he tried to save her. Her grandmother said: ‘We were told within five minutes of arriving at hospital that Wyllow had passed away.’ Coroner Darren Salter adjourned the hearing for further evidence to be submitted. It will resume on a date yet to be fixed, which is likely to be in around six months time.