The Health Minister in the Lords has promised to find out from the Department of Health why a 999 operator allegedly wasted time before calling an ambulance, when Lady Winston was dying in her husband’s arms last December.
In a poignant contribution to a debate in the Lords on deaths caused by ambulance delays, Lord Winston, the fertility pioneer and Labour peer, described how the 999 call handler had “bombarded” him with “a litany of questions” — including asking him to count the heartbeats of his wife.
Lady Winston, who was 72 and a renowned Jewish educator, collapsed suddenly in the family home. Lord Winston called the 999 service — but, as he told fellow peers: “As my wife lay dying in my arms, I phoned the 999 service.
“The man answering the call asked me a litany of questions and asked me to count her number of heartbeats per minute. That waste of time is critical; with a cardiac arrest you have only a few seconds.
“I had to interrupt the cardiac massage that I was giving my wife until the emergency services arrived, but of course they had not been called yet”.
Lord Winston, 81 and emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College, London, asked Lord Kamall to confirm that there was “proper training for people who answer these calls at these critical times, when they are dealing with someone who may recognise that their close relative is dying and that the latter can hear what they are saying on the telephone”.
He added: “It is highly dangerous and that makes it very difficult. The last thing we hear as we die is usually the voice of someone who is with us”. Lira Winston’s sudden death sent shock waves around the Jewish community.
Lord Kamall, thanked Lord Winston for sharing his “very personal story”, and admitted: “Clearly there are too many incidents of this kind.” He added: “The person was probably trained to ask particular questions to ascertain how serious or how urgent it was —and sadly, clearly it was inappropriate. I will take that particular case back to the department to see if I can get some answers”.
It is not known whether Lord Winston identified himself as a medical professional to the 999 operator.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.