A much-loved nurse died after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance after repeated 999 calls for help.
Dad-of-four David Earle, who spent his life working for the NHS, died in hospital on January 23, 2019, after three 999 calls were made to help him.
The 60-year-old from Wirral, who lived just minutes from the Royal Liverpool Hospital, suffered a cardiac arrest in hospital after complaining of chest pains and breathlessness on emergency calls.
His former wife, Kim Evans, a nurse, said: "My children are absolutely distraught. I just feel for what he gave to the NHS, he deserved such a lot better.
"Even if he couldn't have been saved, he could have been given medication to make him more comfortable.
"I just feel like he was very let down.
"I would never attack the NHS, I've given my whole life to it, but no one should suffer like that at the end of their life, nobody."
The North West Ambulance Service classed David's case as a serious incident and have written to apologise to Ms Evans.
A spokesman said it recognised "it must have been a very distressing ordeal" for David's family and said "we acknowledge the care we provided of Mr Earle fell short of the standard of service we would expect."
Kim, who was married to David for 24 years before they divorced, said he lived on Wedgewood Street, only a short distance from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
She told the ECHO how on the day David died he had called his brother for help and had said he did not feel well.
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The grandmother-of-one said: "He'd contacted his brother saying he didn't feel very well and his brother had gone over there. They dialled 999 to say he had chest pain and was struggling breathing.
"There was a subsequent second call made by a neighbour and they said 'for goodness sake, if you don't get here soon this man's going to be dead'.
"And then they waited a total of two hours, 12 minutes and they called 999 three times.
"By the time they got to him they realised how poorly he was and put him in the ambulance. He was only at the Royal for 11 minutes before he went into cardiac arrest and died.
"They let him down on everything, the call should have been a category 1, because of the symptoms he had.
"He was minutes from the Royal and he could have been saved."
A call was first made to emergency services at 4.09pm, where it was noted David had difficulty breathing.
In a letter to Kim, NWAS said: "The information provided generated a Category 2 response, meaning that we should have attended Mr Earle in 18 minutes."
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It also noted the day David died was "exceptionally busy" for the ambulance staff.
It said: "This was an exceptionally busy day for us and the number of calls that we were receiving at that time was exceeding our supply of paramedics and ambulances. On this day, we were experiencing some staff shortfalls as a result of sickness and annual leave.
It added: "Based on the coding of Category 2, there were no available vehicles to send earlier than the ambulance that attended Mr Earle.
"All ambulances were appropriately committed or correctly unavailable in line with our meal break policy, as the staff had not been able to take their mandatory break earlier in the shift due to the demand of waiting incidents."
David's cause of death was later ruled as a pulmonary embolism, but Kim said she wishes he could have been given medication to make him more comfortable in his final moments.
She also claimed that while David was breathless, he was asked to leave his home by going down the stairs on his bottom.
She said: "He would have known he was dying and they could have administered at least medication to have made him comfortable.
"It's the suffering that I know he would have gone through [which is the worst].
"He's given so much of his life to the NHS but I just can't let it go, I'm totally traumatised by it.
"It's a catalogue or errors. Being a nurse myself, I'm well aware that if you've got someone who's acutely breathless you don't get them to bounce down the stairs on their bottom - how undignified is that?
"He couldn't breathe, he had chest pain and he was made to get down the stairs himself. He probably would have turned down help if he was helped, but as a healthcare professional you assess that and you take that decision away from the person."
NWAS said it has since identified areas of learning in the way David's calls were handled.
Kim said David's death has left the family bereft, and his four children miss him dearly.
Paying tribute to him, she said: "He was a very jovial guy. I met him when he was doing his training and our relationship started in the 1980s. He was really well-liked by his colleagues.
"His language was very colourful and he was very caring. He loved his children dearly, and his family.
"He spent his whole life working for the NHS and he spent a lot of time working in local nursing homes on the Wirral. He worked extremely hard for his children and he devoted his life to being a nurse and a loving father.
"He was so kind and compassionate and he gave his whole life to caring for others. "
A spokesperson for North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said: “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Mr Earle’s family and recognise that this must have been a very distressing ordeal for them.
“When Mr Earle’s family notified us of this incident, it was flagged and recorded as a ‘serious incident’ and as a result, we undertook a thorough investigation.
"The trust did identify areas of learning in the way the call was handled and in the time it took to despatch an ambulance to Mr Earle.
“We acknowledge that the care we provided to Mr Earle fell far short of the standard of service we would expect.
“We are very sorry that on this occasion we failed to respond to Mr Earle appropriately”
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