A mother whose little girl began to choke on a grape were left desperate after call handlers told her they would not send an ambulance because it was NOT an emergency.
Five-year-old Iris, who has Down’s Syndrome, was travelling in the back of the car with her parents, Kate and Gavin Pickering, when she suddenly started struggling to breathe.
Mrs Pickering, 35, said she was referred by 999 call handlers to the NHS 111 service who refused to send an ambulance to help their little girl.
Now, the pair are trying to raise awareness about choking hazards and the importance of parents knowing the basics of first aid.
Mrs Pickering, from Ackworth, near Wakefield, West Yorks., said: “We were coming back from holiday and my little girl was sat in the back of the car.
“At first we didn’t know what was wrong, she just started screaming and struggling to breathe. We had to pull on the hard shoulder to try to find out what was wrong with her.
“Then she pointed to some grapes.”
The family were in a dangerous place on the motorway and had to pull off and wait until they reached the first drive they came to before they could stop.
The homeowners came out to help but at this stage Iris was already foaming at the mouth and her breathing was becoming worse.
Speaking about her 999 call, Mrs Pickering said she was referred to NHS 111 who told them to go to the hospital.
“They said it wasn’t an emergency.”
Fortunately for the desperate couple, as they rushed to the nearest hospital, the grape dislodged itself but their 40-minute ordeal has left them keen to urge parents to cut up small foods commonly eaten by children.
Mrs Pickering is also encourage parents to sign up to first aid courses.
She said: “We did not know what to do and it was so frightening.
“I want to create some awareness.”
A spokeswoman for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust apologised to the family.
The spokeswoman said: “We would like to apologise for any distress caused as a result of our response to this 999 call.
“We are already in contact with the family through our Patient Relations Department and are looking into the specific details of this case. We will be responding to them directly regarding their concerns.
“We would like to reassure members of the public that our priority is to provide a safe, responsive and high quality service to the people of Yorkshire.”