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Woman dies in mum's arms while waiting an hour for an ambulance

Denise Aitcheson, 75, called for help after her 53-year-old daughter Lisa suffered a heart attack.

Denise Aitcheson with a picture of her daughter Lisa. (SWNS)
Denise Aitcheson with a picture of her daughter Lisa. (SWNS)

A devastated mother is demanding “justice” after her daughter died in her arms while waiting over an hour for an ambulance.

Denise Aitcheson, 75, gave 53-year-old Lisa CPR when she suffered a heart attack at her flat in Canterbury, Kent, in November. However, paramedics did not arrive on the scene until more than 60 minutes later after the call was upgraded to Category 1.

Denise, who has tragically lost three daughters and her husband in six years, said: “It took the ambulance over an hour to come. She had already died, and they didn’t even apologise. I know she was a very sick girl, but my daughter didn’t have to die the way she did. It makes me so angry and upset.”

She added: “I held Lisa in my arms as she died while asking me where the ambulance was and telling me she loved me. I’ve got to live with that for the rest of my life.”

Denise Aitcheson holding pictures of her three daughters, Lisa, Laura, and Louise. (SWNS)
Denise Aitcheson holding pictures of her three daughters, Lisa, Laura, and Louise. (SWNS)

Lisa suffered from a blood disorder, anorexia, heart issues, arthritis, and partial deafness linked to a lupus flare-up 12 years ago. Ambulance service bosses have apologised for taking too long, but Denise says she wants to know why there was a delay in help being sent.

Denise and her three adult grandchildren, Liam, Ryan and Courtney, are now calling for compensation to cover funeral costs and provide savings for the future. Lisa was a lifelong Arsenal fan and at her funeral the coffin was covered in red and white.

Denise said: “If it’s happened to my daughter, how many other people has this happened to? They didn’t help Lisa at the end of the day. I want justice for Lisa – I can’t move on until I’ve got answers.”

"I can’t get my head around it"

Denise, a retired housekeeper, had gone over to Lisa’s flat after she called her saying she did not feel well. She was suffering from sickness and “just didn’t look well at all”, Denise said. When Lisa started having chest pains, she called NHS 111.

Denise explained that Lisa had recently undergone heart surgery to insert stents and suffered with the autoimmune disease lupus. The call, made at 6:30am on 2 November, was initially triaged as a Category 2 ambulance response – meaning paramedics aim to get to the scene within 18 minutes. But as time went on, no ambulance arrived.

She kept calling for help while giving her daughter CPR but it was not until more than an hour later, at 7.40am, that the call was upgraded to Category 1, requiring an immediate response. Paramedics then arrived within five minutes, but it was too late to save Lisa.

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Denise said: “I can’t get my head around it. 53 is no age at all. I still expect Lisa to be on the end of the phone like she was three or four times a day before. She always made time for me. She was so kind and good-natured. I was and am so proud of who she was.”

Denise says she has attempted to contact South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) on multiple occasions to find out why paramedics were so late – but has been met with a wall of silence.

A Secamb spokesperson said: “We take all concerns raised seriously and our thoughts are with Mrs Aitcheson at this difficult time. We are sorry we took longer than we should to respond to her daughter and appreciate how distressing this must have been.

They added: “We are sorry Mrs Aitcheson is unhappy with our response to her complaint. We have looked into her concerns and will be responding to her directly in full in the coming days.”

Ambulances and emergency incident vehicles in the car park as South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) organised simulated emergency situation on Camber Sands on the 28th of September 2023 in Camber, United Kingdom. Emergency Staff and volunteers responded to various scenarios based around a significant incident on a summer's day where a number of people sustain injuries. Police, Fire Service, RNLI, Coastguard and beach Lifeguards took part in the exercise. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
The South East Coast Ambulance Service took over an hour to arrive. (SWNS)

Ambulance response times

NHS figures reveal that South East Coast Ambulance Service’s average response time for Category 2 calls in November (when Lisa died) was 30 minutes. This is 12 minutes longer than the target.

In December, the average response time for these incidents increased to 32 minutes. The national average is 45 minutes. Statistics showed one in three patients arriving by ambulance at hospitals in England last month waited more than 30 minutes to be handed over to A&E.

NHS England data revealed 28,498 delays of half an hour or longer were recorded across all hospital trusts in the week to December 10. This was 34% of the 84,268 arrivals by ambulance where the handover time was known. The figure is up from 25% for the week ending November 26.