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January 31, 2011

UK 'tea break' medic: 'I did not refuse call'

By Paula Murray
Sunday Express

MORAY, Scotland —A Scottish ambulance driver slated after refusing to stop a tea break to help a dying woman 800 yards away yesterday broke his silence, insisting he had done nothing wrong.

Relief technician Owen McLauchlan, 23, claimed he did not ignore the 999 call shortly before Mandy Mathieson, 33, died from a heart attack last year.

He was suspended for not attending the emergency following a call from Ms Mathieson's partner, Bobby Taylor, who found her unconscious. She had suffered a heart attack after a blood clot and died during the 20 minutes it took another crew, from 15 miles away, to reach her.

Mr McLauchlan, who was based just 800 yards from the accounts manager's house, in Tomintoul, Moray, kept his job.

In his statement, Mr McLauchlan said: "On October 16, 2010, I was never asked or instructed to attend a 999 call, and I never refused to attend a 999 call. This has been confirmed by the Scottish Ambulance Service."

Mr Taylor, 29, spent almost half-anhour trying to resuscitate his partner after finding her not breathing.

The ambulance service received a call at 12.45pm. The control centre in Inverness made contact with Mr McLauchlan and asked him to attend, but said he refused because he was on a break. Following a review the driver was told he would not be sacked but given further training, although officials still maintain he "chose" not to attend the emergency.

Ambulance service Chief Executive Pauline Howie said the relief technician would never work in the area again and added: "We have assured ourselves that he has shown regret and has been able to assure us with the compassion he displayed."

New conditions from 2007 mean crews can opt not to be interrupted during breaks, or take a bonus to be available at all times. More than 600 staff went for the latter.

Miss Mathieson's family said if the policy was removed they could see "a lot of positives" from the tragedy.

They said they were not surprised by the decision but were glad McLauchlan will not be stationed at Tomintoul when he returns to work.

The dead woman's uncle, firefighte r Charlie Skene, 52, said: "He was onl y abiding by their rules but what are they going to teach him? Surely the y can't teach him compassion?

"The way this has been done says a lot about the people at the top."

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