Quick response may have saved councillor’s son

James Best photo for use in the Hastings Observer edtion 22/3/13
James Best photo for use in the Hastings Observer edtion 22/3/13

THE FOSTER son of a Hastings Borough councillor who was locked up following the 2011 London riots could have been saved if an ambulance had been sent sooner, a jury inquest ruled.

James Best, 37, who was fostered by cllr Godfrey Daniel from the age of 15 to 18, collapsed in his cell at Wandsworth Prison on September 8, 2011 after rupturing his coronary artery during a vigorous gym session.

An inquest at Westminster Coroners Court heard how prison staff pleaded for paramedics to be sent immediately.

But London Ambulance Service put Mr Best’s plight in the second lowest category of urgency and dithered over sending paramedics to the scene.

An agonising 13 minute 999 call by prison officer Paul Morris was played to the inquest where he said a nurse on scene was ‘screaming’ for an ambulance.

Jurors found the delay in sending the ambulance and failure to override a computer system handling the urgency of the calls contributed to Mr Best’s death.

Returning a narrative verdict, the jury found: “An ambulance should have been requested as soon as the gravity of James Best’s ill health became apparent, possibly when he was having difficulty breathing, certainly at the time it was suspected he was having a heart attack,” the jury of nine women and one man found.

“The timing of the call to LAS potentially contributed to James Best’s death.”

Lauren Hutson, the LAS operator with no medical training who took the fateful call, told the hearing she could not override the computer system to send an ambulance sooner.

She even said if Mr Morris had lied on the 999 call to make the situation sound more urgent, an ambulance would have been sent sooner.

The jury returned a damning verdict.

They said: “The request was not given sufficient priority by LAS due to the inflexibility of the triage system and the delay in the management decision to override the system and contact dispatch directly.”

Mr Best was behind bars awaiting sentence for stealing a gingerbread from Munchies bakery in Croydon, south London.

He was locked up by Croydon Magistrates after admitting theft during the riots.

Mr Best had Chrohn’s disease, asthma, a history of raised blood pressure and was also under the care of mental health professionals.

But the prison system, dubbed ‘a shambles’ by their own staff, failed to flag up Mr Best’s medical conditions before he used the gym.

The jury heard that prison officers had failed to appreciate the severity of the situation when Mr Best collapsed.

But they added: “Once it was suspected James Best was suffering a heart attack, prison officer response was prompt and effective.”

The jury found Mr Best, suffered acute left ventricular failure and coronary artery narrowing and thrombosis.

He died of natural causes.