28th Sep, 2020

Man who swallowed toxic substance could have lived but for communication breakdown

Catherine Thompson 30th Jan, 2020 Updated: 30th Jan, 2020

A MAN who took his own life after taking a toxic substance might have lived had there not been a communication breakdown, an inquest has heard.

Ashley Walker died after taking a lethal dose of sodium nitrite at his home on Oaks Road in Kenilworth last August.

The 25-year-old called emergency services and when the ambulance crew arrived he was unconscious. They provided Mr Walker with oxygen and said his levels of consciousness showed slight improvement as his limbs began to move.

But the crew was told to leave the house by the ambulance operations manager who believed they were dealing with a spillage rather than the swallowing of the substance.

Mr Walker was left for some 45 minutes until the fire service arrived. He was given CPR for 15 minutes but was later pronounced dead.

It also emerged there was an antidote to counteract the sodium nitrate but paramedics did not routinely carry it.

The patient had previously taken overdoses, including ingesting anti-freeze over several days, and expressed suicidal thoughts to mental health specialists.

He had been offered assessments on a number of occasions although had declined. When one was finally taken it was ruled he did not suffer from acute mental issues and at the time expressed no suicidal intent.

Warwickshire senior coroner Sean McGovern said in his closing statement he would consider making a ‘future death report’ in relation to the ‘communication breakdown’ between the medical teams.

To a West Midlands Ambulance Service representative he said: “You said there was a real chance of survival which I agree with.

“There is an antidote effective if used in the first hour. Although we don’t know when he took the sodium nitrate. There was a prospect he might have survived but I can’t say with absolute certainty.”

He added he would consider issuing a future death report to NHS officials in the hope of preventing future deaths.

He offered his condolences to Mr Walker’s family.

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