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Former Thanet policeman Stephen Thurman-Newell died after pleading for help

A former police officer died from an asthma attack after repeatedly pleading “help me” to call handlers who dispatched an ambulance 17 minutes after he dialled 999, an inquest heard.

Stephen Hartwell Thurman-Newell faced delays in an ambulance being sent to his home after staff continued to try and complete a triage process to establish the nature of his call.

By the time the first paramedic arrived at the 62-year-old’s property, 36 minutes had passed since he had initially dialled for help saying he could not breathe.

Stephen Thurwell-Newell (5619173)
Stephen Thurwell-Newell (5619173)

Mr Thurman-Newell, a decorated officer who was known as "street warrior" by his former colleagues, was pronounced dead around 30 minutes later.

He and wife Susan had moved to Wincanton in Somerset after Mr Thurman-Newell retired from Kent Police after 30 years of service in 2010.

He called 999 for an ambulance shortly after returning home from work on September 16, 2016, having been employed as a driver in his retirement.

Tony Williams, senior coroner for Somerset, has now requested details of how ambulance trusts across the country classify asthma attacks with a view to potentially making recommendations that all trusts should class incidents as the highest possible emergency.

Stephen Thurwell -Newell and wife Susan (5619167)
Stephen Thurwell -Newell and wife Susan (5619167)

It comes after an inquest into Mr Thurman-Newell's death in which the coroner recorded a narrative conclusion.

Eleri Davies, the medical negligence lawyer representing Mr Thurman-Newell's widow Susan, said after the hearing: “Stephen’s sudden death has had a huge impact on the family who are still struggling to come to terms with what happened to him.

“For more than two years Susan and the rest of the family have had a number of concerns about the events that unfolded in the lead up to his death. Sadly some of the evidence heard during the course of the inquest has validated these concerns.

“While nothing will make up for Stephen’s death we acknowledge that following his death, the Trust has introduced measures designed to reduce the number of delays patients suffering an asthma attack face. It is vital that staff follow these measures at all times to help prevent a repeat of the delays Stephen faced before his death.

Stephen Thurman-Newell (5750240)
Stephen Thurman-Newell (5750240)

“We also call on other ambulance trusts across the country to review how they deal with asthma attacks to help prevent other families suffering the pain and anguish Stephen’s family have had to endure following his death.”

Mr Thurman-Newell had two children, Anthony and Penny Louise, two stepsons, Richard and Matthew, as well as four granddaughters and two step grandchildren.

After the hearing Susan, who had been with Mr Thurman-Newell for 20 years, said: “Stephen was a wonderful husband and father who would do anything for his family.

“He was kind and considerate and his wish to help others really shone through in his police work. "Although he had mild asthma this never affected his ability to carry out a demanding job.

“Although he had retired from the police he still wanted to help others. He was still fit and healthy.

“Stephen spent the majority of his life helping and protecting people from harm. It is difficult not to think that when he needed others to help him he was let down.

“I can state with absolute certainty that Stephen would not want what happened to him to happen to anyone else.”

“I don’t think I will ever fully understand why, when Stephen was constantly telling call handlers he was short of breath, using his inhaler and no longer able to talk, it was not classed as a top priority emergency.

“If the ambulance service had treated Stephen as a top priority, he might have stood a fighting chance. It is difficult not to think he would still be alive today, if they had.

“This was the first time Stephen had called 999 and he lost his life. What makes his death even harder to come to terms with is if Stephen had suffered his asthma attack a few months later he probably would have been allocated an ambulance quicker because the trust had changed its response categories.

“Our family will never be the same again without Stephen. All we can hope for now is that Stephen’s death is not totally in vain. We urge all ambulance trusts across the country to class asthma attacks in the same category as other life-threatening conditions so those in need can receive the treatment they need as soon as possible and so other families do not have to endure the feeling of hurt and loss we do.

“I can state with absolute certainty that Stephen would not want what happened to him to happen to anyone else.”

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