Heartbroken parents told Rugby College student’s death could be investigated

The death of a popular Rugby College student could be investigated amid claims he might have survived had there not been a long delay in an ambulance reaching him.

Jamie Rees collapsed after suffering an unexplained cardiac arrest while with friends in Rugby in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

The much-loved 18-year-old, affectionately known as Jay, died at University Hospital Coventry with his heartbroken family by his bedside on January 5.

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Jamie’s grieving family have now received a copy of the ambulance report which validates what they felt they always knew – that he could have survived had an ambulance not taken 17-and-a-half minutes to arrive.

“It confirms that it was well over the average time that should be taken to reach a category 1 patient,” Naomi Rees-Issitt, Jamie’s mum said. “The target time for category 1 patients is seven to eight minutes. The absolute maximum for category 1 patients is supposed to be 15 minutes, and it was two-and-a-half minutes slower than that.

“It’s been put forward for a Patient Safety Incident Investigation (PSII). That made for a very upsetting weekend. We knew all along the response time was slow and well outside the target time.

Jamies Rees and his mum Naomi Issitt

“But we are distraught because the more we hear, the more we realize he could still be here. He actually died of oxygen starvation in his brain so even if an ambulance had got to him within ten minutes he might still have stood a chance. “

Jamie’s dad Gavin said it was imperative that the slow response time was investigated. “We are never going to know if he would have survived,” he said. “We can’t go back in time.

“But we know it would have given him a lot better chance had they got there a lot sooner. The ambulance got there in 17 minutes, but by the time they actually started to attend to him it was 19 minutes.”

More than 5,000 people signed a petition last year calling on West Midlands Ambulance Service Trust to scrap its plans to shut Rugby Community Ambulance Station at the Hospital of St Cross. Campaigners feared the closure would significantly increase ambulance response times and put lives at risk.

“With the removal of that ambulance the waiting times for people in this town will get worse,” petition founder Alison Livesey wrote. “And the risk is someone will needlessly lose their life while waiting for an ambulance.”

West Midlands Ambulance Service claims the period from New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day was the busiest it had ever experienced and says the station’s closure was not to blame for the critically slow ambulance response time.

Meanwhile, Jamie’s family have echoed campaigners’ sentiments and say their beloved boy was the victim of the cruellest type of postcode lottery.

“They (the Trust) say they have closed certain ambulance stations to improve response times – but to where?” Gavin said.

“Is that in Birmingham or Coventry? They can’t surely be improving response times in Rugby. Daventry has its own ambulance station. Rugby is bigger and is only getting bigger with all the new housing developments, yet it hasn’t got one. That can’t be right.”

Floral tributes outside Rainsbrook Crematorium in Rugby following the funeral of popular ​student Jamie Rees
Floral tributes outside Rainsbrook Crematorium in Rugby following the funeral of popular student Jamie Rees

“If there was still an ambulance station in Rugby could he have been saved?” Naomi, 42, added. “That’s one of many questions even bigger now. I’m not saying it would have saved him because we don’t know that. But it would have given him a fighting chance.

“The fact an ambulance did not get to him within 17 minutes – they already knew they weren’t going to save him. Had we lived in Coventry, chance is Jamie might have been seen sooner and stood a better chance of surviving. How can that’s right?”

It is claimed an ambulance should have been based at the Hospital of St Cross as part of an assurance to have a vehicle on standby at ‘high traffic’ times such as weekends, fireworks displays and public holidays like New Year’s Day. According to the ambulance report, there was not a vehicle on standby at the hospital on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day, the busiest period of the year for the NHS.

“It’s just not okay and there’s no excuse for it,” added Naomi, who lives in Wolvey, Warwickshire. “He stood no chance at all. Had there been an A&E department in Rugby it might have been different.

“It’s disgusting that the ambulance based in Rugby isn’t there anymore. The (Trust) Chief Executive told (Rugby) MP Mark Pawsey that removing the standby vehicle meant reaching other patients within the target time.

Naomi Issitt with sons Callum Rees, left, and Jamie Rees
Naomi Issitt with sons Callum Rees, left, and Jamie Rees

“Does that make some lives more important than others? The family’s question is ‘why did it take them so long to get there?’. We and the people of Rugby have a right to know.”

Between 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 6am on New Year’s Day the ambulance service received 3,002 calls. The previous highest figure for that period was in 2016/17 when it received 2,414 – an increase of nearly 25 per cent.

A spokesman said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Jamie Rees and apologise for the delay in responding on New Year’s Day. New Year’s Day was the busiest the Trust has ever experienced, nearly a quarter busier than the previous busiest New Year’s Day.

“In Rugby, in the 90 minutes before we received the first 999 call to Jamie, there had been three other emergency calls, which would have meant any ambulances based in the town would already have been with patients. So we sent the nearest available ambulance .

“The closure of community ambulance stations, including the one in Rugby, is allowing us to respond to between 5,000 and 6,000 more patients than we would previously have been able to; allowing us to get to more patients, more quickly than before.

“Unfortunately, the whole of the NHS remains under severe pressure and long hospital handover delays do mean patients are waiting longer for an ambulance. That is why we are working so closely with local partners to find ways to reduce those delays so that our crews can get to patients more quickly than we currently do.

“Our staff and volunteers continue to work tirelessly to provide the best patient care we can. In recent months we have increased the number of call handlers, frontline staff and community first responders as well as introducing measures to allow us to get to the most seriously injured and unwell patients as soon as possible.”

Jamie Rees who died after suffering a cardiac arrest while out with friends in Rugby
Jamie Rees who died after suffering a cardiac arrest while out with friends in Rugby

Jamie’s survival chances were also weakened by a lack of publicly accessible defibrillators in the area. There are only thought to be 48 machines across the entire borough. Many are inside buildings which have set opening times like the one at Ashlawn School, the defibrillator closest to where Jamie collapsed in Oval Road.

The family’s fundraising campaign to install defibrillators around Rugby, backed by Rugby councilor Wayne Rabin, has already generated more than £13,000 in tandem with a raffle that has been launched. It’s not just family or friends, and indeed people known to Jamie, who had been hoping to set up a plumbing business alongside his classmates, who have supported the appeal.

So moved by the tragedy, a woman donated over £600 with the help of her extended family and friends in Thailand.

“These kind people never had with Jay, but they could see how amazing he is and how precious he is to us all and they wanted to help,” Naomi wrote on her Facebook page.

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“Thank you so much for your support and kindness. We will never stop trying to raise awareness of the need for accessible outdoor defibrillators. One could’ve saved Jay’s life.”

Top Marks Electrical has agreed to fit all of the defibrillators the family raises money for at no charge.

Thanks to grants arranged by the charity SADS and another foundation, Naomi believes the campaign has so far raised enough for 12 machines, the backboards and vandal-proof casing, and says it is a case of finding the right sites.

To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ourjay

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