An investigation has been launched over an emergency phone number given to parents of children affected by changes at Bedford Hospital.
Alison Taylor, who lives in St Peter’s Street, Bedford, frantically dialled the open access telephone number when her infant son Samuel stopped breathing at home.
But as ambulance crews assessed Samuel - who tragically died a week later after being born with tricuspid artresia and a hole in the heart - the new mum claims she was told that the 24-hour phone line was only available from 8am until 8pm and she would not be able to speak to a consultant.
She said: “When we were discharged from Bedford Hospital on August 16 we were given the phone number for open access.
“They told me if he stopped breathing to call 999, but also to ring the open access number to say that we were on our way to Milton Keynes Hospital.”
After paramedics assessed Samuel he seemed to improve and Alison decided not to take him to Milton Keynes - because it was a Saturday night, and without having spoken to a consultant she didn’t want to wait with her baby in A&E.
The very next day she contacted the neo-natal team at Bedford Hospital, and arranged an appointment for the Monday when Samuel was immediately transferred to Evelina Children’s Hospital in London for surgery.
He had the operation two days later, but sadly did not recover because of his serious health problems.
Alison, who travelled to London with her partner Steven Day to be by Samuel’s side, said: “The worst thing was that they said if I had taken him to A&E at Bedford Hospital they would have seen him.
“I was so upset, I would have taken him there in my arms on the Saturday or Sunday if I had known.”
She added: “I just wonder if all of that confusion at the beginning would have made a difference.
“There are lovely people that work at Bedford.
“It’s not them that have stopped the services, and without them we wouldn’t have had that chance to go to London.”
Stephen Conroy, Bedford Hospital chief executive (acting), said: “We would like to offer our deepest sympathies to baby Samuel’s family at this difficult and distressing time.
“As part of the interim arrangements for children services, neighbouring hospitals have been providing 24/7 open access care and support for patients and their families.
“These details are explained clearly to families with open access care arrangements and we provide them with contact information to access these services.
“In the case of Samuel, a meeting was held between clinicians and family members before his discharge to ensure that safe and appropriate follow-up care arrangements were in place and that the family knew what to do if their son became unwell.”
He added: “Parents are always informed that if there is an emergency they should call 999 for an ambulance. Ms Taylor rightly did this when Samuel became unwell.
“It is crucial that the interim services in place are robust and that families are able to access the care they need for their children.
“Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group will be leading an investigation into what difficulties Ms Taylor had with getting the advice she needed following her 999 call.”
Milton Keynes Hospital, which run the open access service that Alison used, have this advice for families in a similar situation.
A spokesman said: “Milton Keynes Hospital runs a full 24-hour, seven days a week service.
“Parents who have open-access at Milton Keynes Hospital and need medical advice for their children are welcome to call the hospital’s Paediatric Assessment Unit, which is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”