THE family of a man who could not be saved by paramedics after taking crystal meth on New Year’s Day today warned of the dangers of non-prescription drugs.
Victor Bede, 53, collapsed shortly after midnight in Queensway. An ambulance was delayed due to a computer crash but a coroner found its earlier arrival would not have helped due to the amount of drugs in his body.
Mr Bede’s brother Rob Reason said he had been surprised to discover that there was no antidote to amphetamine overdoses, and called for “recreational” drug users to be alerted.
In a statement afterwards on behalf of his family, Mr Reason told the Standard: “One thing that we learnt at the inquest was that there is no antidote to the drug that Victor used – methyl amphetamine.
“We would like to see that fact widely disseminated as a warning to so-called recreational users. In fact, it would be our hope that the dangers of any type of non-prescription drugs would be further publicised.”
Westminster coroner’s court heard that the first 999 call about Mr Bede was made at 2.18am. The caller could not get through but was called back. Mr Bede was initially rated as a second priority call but was upgraded when he stopped breathing. An emergency crew arrived at 3.16am.
London Ambulance Service’s computer system had crashed at 12.30am on the busiest night of the year, forcing call handlers to take details with pen and paper until 5.15am. A total of 2,810 calls received a delayed response.
The court heard that Mr Bede died after taking seven times the typical “recreational” limit of methyl amphetamine. Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe gave a narrative verdict and said: “Of all times this was the worst time to have a computer failure because it was such a busy time.”
The family’s statement said they accepted the ambulance delay “probably did not materially affect the outcome for Victor”.
They added: “We were also pleased with the seriousness with which LAS treated the incident and their responses to both their own internal investigation and the external review of their systems and procedures.
“We believe that the level of resilience in an IT system that frequently breaks down is inadequate and should be backed up by an alternative, perhaps less comprehensive, IT system.
“We believe that our sad loss has at least contributed to a greater resilience of the service that LAS provides to Londoners and, possibly, to citizens of other parts of the country.”
The family received an apology from the Metropolitan police after a mix-up in confirming Mr Bede’s identity meant they only learned of his death – by chance from a friend – a week later.
LAS medical director Dr Fenella Wrigley said after the inquest: “We have met Mr Bede’s family and talked through what happened. It was our busiest night of the year and our computer system stopped working due to a technical fault.
“There was also a very confused picture from the scene, with the phone being passed between several people and the description of the patient’s presentation changing.
“We conducted a thorough investigation into what happened and have made a number of changes, including strengthening our IT leadership team and changing processes in the control room so that calls can be handled more effectively when using the manual system.”
- A report in the Evening Standard incorrectly referred to “safe” levels of crystal meth. Victor’s family have asked us to note that there is no safe level.