Lord Winston's wife lay dying in his arms as he was asked ‘waste of time’ questions by 999 staff

Robert Winston said he was asked a ‘litany of questions’ before dispatcher sent ambulance


Jewish peer Lord Robert Winston has spoken movingly in the House of Lords about how he was asked a ‘litany of questions’ by a 999 call dispatcher while his wife lay dying in his arms.

In a debate in the House of Lords chamber on delays to ambulance services, the Labour peer recounted his own experience with ambulance staff where he was forced to stop a cardiac massage of his wife to count her heartbeats.

The renowned doctor and fertility expert said: “As my wife lay dying in my arms, I phoned 999.

"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.


"When he eventually backed down, it was obvious that he had not been trained to ask the right questions.”

He also asked government peer Lord Kamall, a health minister, whether steps were being taken to ensure that staff are given proper training in critical situations, including in dealing with a relative who is seeing their loved one die in front of them.

Lord Kamall promised to look into the case, telling Labour peer Winston: “In that case the person was probably trained to ask particular questions to ascertain how serious or urgent it was but clearly that was inappropriate. I will take that case back to the department and see whether I can get some answers.”

Lady Winston passed away unexpectedly in December 2021, at the age of 72. She was assistant director of the Jewish Leadership Council's schools network, PaJeS, and previously the JLC's schools strategy co-ordinator.

At the time of her passing, PaJeS executive director Rabbi David Meyer described her as: “a caring and trusted friend and through her wisdom and love for Jewish education she has been the driving force behind PaJeS since its inception." 

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