NEGLIGENCE, DUTY OF CARE, EXISTENCE OF DUTY, AMBULANCE SERVICE, AMBULANCE FAILING TO ARRIVE ON TIME, NO EXPLANATION FOR DELAY
The plaintiff, Kent, was pregnant and had asthma. She was attended by her GP who dialled 999 and requested an ambulance to take the plaintiff to hospital. The ambulance took 38 minutes to arrive. As a result, the plaintiff suffered a respiratory arrest with grave consequences – substantial memory impairment, personality change and miscarriage. Kent brought and action against the London Ambulance Service (LAS) alleging negligence in failing to respond promptly and continuously give her oxygen in the ambulance. LAS was found liable in damages since they owed a duty of care to Kent as an individual patient. LAS appealed to the Court of Appeal on grounds that similar to the police and the fire brigade, they did not owe a common law duty of care to the public at large.
(1) Do the ambulance service owe a duty of care to the public at large?
(2) Does public policy preclude the existence of duty of care on behalf of the ambulance service to the public at large?
The appeal was dismissed.
(1) Unlike the police and the fire brigade, the ambulance service is part of the healthcare service where a duty of care to patients normally exists.
(2) Public policy grounds do not preclude the existence of duty of care to the patients on behalf of the ambulance service.
(3) The ambulance had been called for the patient alone, there were no other circumstances justifying its delay and it was foreseeable that the claimant would suffer further injuries if the arrival of the ambulance was delayed. Therefore, there was no reason why there should be no liability.