London – With her history of allergies, 18-year-old Shante Turay-Thomas wasn’t too concerned about the symptoms she was experiencing.
She’d had a reaction after accidentally eating hazelnut – her throat felt itchy and she had the beginnings of a rash. To be on the safe side, she asked her mother Emma to call 111.
Yet the system behind the NHS phone line which promises help for people needing urgent medical attention was to fail Shante with a shocking series of blunders.
And less than an hour later, Emma Turay could only look on helplessly as her daughter whispered: “Bye Mum, I love you,” and drew her final, shallow breath.
Now, after a damning series of findings by a coroner, heartbroken Ms Turay has told The Mail on Sunday: “I would never call 111 again. It is simply a call centre. It’s only a matter of time before what happened to Shante happens again.”
Shante’s inquest last week laid bare the shocking failures which led to her death weeks before she was to take up a place at the University of Sussex to study law.
Ms Turay tearfully recalled calling 111 after Shante fell ill shortly before 11pm on September 14, 2018. She spoke to call handler Ademola Dada, who passed Shante’s case on to a medically trained clinician. But Mr Dada failed to include the vital detail that Shante may have had an allergic reaction. He had also failed to untick a box on his screen which placed Shante at her grandmother’s house – when she was six miles away with her mother in Finsbury Park, North London.
Ms Turay said: “After I got passed to a clinician, Shante seemed like she was getting worse.” The clinician, Paul Summers, told Ms Turay, 42, that an ambulance was on its way. She said: “I could see that Shante was starting to panic. I said, “It’s OK, they are coming.” She was wheezing and she was using her asthma inhaler between breaths.”
After Ms Turay checked with the clinician, Shante administered a dose of adrenaline to herself using an injector pen but it seemed to make no difference.
The minutes ticked by, with no sign of an ambulance. Tragically, it had arrived at the wrong house. Shante’s mother broke down as she described her daughter’s final moments: “She was on the sofa. Then she looked up and said, ‘Bye Mum, I love you’ and her head slumped to the side.”
Ms Turay applied CPR until Shante’s elder sister Allysha and her boyfriend arrived home from an evening out and took over the attempts to save her life. Paramedics finally arrived at 11.44pm – 43 minutes after Ms Turay dialled 111. Shante was taken to hospital, only to be pronounced dead.
The inquest found that the NHS 111 computer system classed anaphylaxis – a life-threatening allergic reaction – as a ‘category two’ case, meaning an ambulance will usually arrive within 40 minutes.
Yet a 999 call, as a ‘category one’ emergency, would have provided a seven-minute response.
The inquest also found that Shante had not been told she needed to carry two adrenaline injector pens, as she would need both for a severe reaction. Further, her prescription was 300 micrograms, rather than the 500 micrograms she should have been given after turning 18.
Inner North London coroner Mary Hassell found the mistakes together had caused Shante’s death and made 18 different recommendations to prevent future deaths.
“Shante was let down again and again,” said Ms Turay, who was represented by law firm Leigh Day. “Now we have some justice at last.”
An NHS spokesman said: “While incidents like this are extremely rare, where concerns are raised they are investigated and any necessary changes made – building on the NHS’s reputation as one of the world’s safest health systems.”
The Mail on Sunday