Independent investigation under way over son’s Home Safeguard complaint

Hedley Dowdle at Christmas in 2015

Hedley Dowdle at Christmas in 2015 - Credit: Archant

Bosses of a lifeline system used by thousands of vulnerable people have defended the service after a son claimed his 95-year-old father’s death might have been prevented.

Hedley Dowdle

Hedley Dowdle - Credit: Archant

Widower Hedley Dowdle, of Newton Poppleford, paid for East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) 24-hour Home Safeguard for 15 years, but it was only last October when he used it for the first time.

His son, Richard, said the non-emergency 111 number was called by the service instead of 999.

Richard claims that, as a result, paramedics were not given the code to an external key safe to access his father’s Brook Meadow property – and by the time they gained entry, he was ‘on his last breath’.

An independent investigation is now under way to establish the sequence of events.

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EDDC said Home Safeguard followed the standard procedure in the circumstances.

Richard said: “It’s certainly possible that emergency services could have done something if they’d reached my father sooner.

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“With hindsight, my father would have been better off simply picking up the phone and dialling 999.”

According to EDDC’s website, Home Safeguard ‘costs less than £5 per week’ and allows its 4,800 users to ‘live independently, safe in the knowledge that help will reach them quickly if needed’ if they activate a wearable alarm.

Richard wants EDDC to refund what his father paid for it over the last 15 years.

He is speaking out after talking to paramedics and obtaining transcripts of the calls to Home Safeguard and emergency services.

Richard said his father’s conversation with Home Safeguard lasted only 15 seconds.

He added that the transcripts show that, when his father said he had an unexplained stomach pain, this

was interpreted as a stomach ache and so the operator phoned 111. Voicemails show the 111 operator called Mr Dowdle and, when he could not be reached, dispatched an ambulance.

Richard claims that, because it was not initially logged as an emergency, the key codes could not be passed to paramedics and they could not access his father’s home when they arrived.

He said paramedics eventually gained access and found swelling around his father’s abdomen they believed could have been an aneurism that later burst.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this very sad incident as Mr Dowdle has complained to the council about the Home Safeguard service.

“We have undertaken an investigation and listened to the recordings and reviewed the case notes.

“A Home Safeguard operator received a call from Mr Dowdle Snr at 11.44pm on October 12 complaining of being unwell.

“One minute later, at 11.45pm, the operator passed the call to the NHS 111 service. This is standard procedure in these circumstances.

“Our operators are not medically trained, so therefore pass the information on to the service that deals with medical emergencies.

“The Local Government Ombudsmen is now conducting an investigation which will be impartial and independent.

“This investigation will establish an accurate sequence of events, and give those involved – including Home Safeguard – the opportunity to see whether there is scope for changes or improvements in working procedures going forward.

“Home Safeguard will fully co-operate in any such investigation.”

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