A FORMER nurse has warned that lives are being put at risk because of a lack of knowledge through the health service about how to get access to oxygen supplies.

David Williamson, from Northallerton, is helping to look after his 76 year-old father who is seriously ill with heart failure and is being cared for at home by his mother and another family member, both nurses.

After recent health issues his father was prescribed oxygen by his GP but supplies had not been delivered for the weekend and the family were concerned about it running out.

When Mr Williamson contacted 111, operators could not help to get oxygen to the family and said an ambulance would have to be sent to take his father to hospital.

“It was like a comedy of errors,” said Mr Williamson, a former mental health nurse.

“111 didn’t know the procedure for obtaining oxygen. They just wanted to get an ambulance, but it was not necessary. We knew exactly what was needed – there were people who could look after him, he didn’t want to go to hospital."

He added: “People would just not believe the problems we had. Even the doctors had difficulties with what form was needed.

"We wonder why we have ongoing concerns with the health service and why there are such difficulties over ambulances not being available and I believe it is down to this kind of thing. This is not the most cost effective way to do things.”

Eventually Mr Williamson contacted BOC, the company which supplies the oxygen. They gave him information about exactly which form was needed – the Home Oxygen Order Form, which he printed off and managed to get filled out and signed.

“Staff at BOC were absolutely brilliant, they were so helpful," said Mr Williamson.

"This is obviously an ongoing problem, that is why I wanted to raise awareness. They are putting the paperwork first and not the patient. If I wasn’t a clinician and hadn’t worked in the service I wouldn’t have known how to pursue this.

“I am afraid lives are being put at risk. Staff at 111 should have this information – some may well have – but procedures are not being followed and it’s totally avoidable. We want to make sure this does not carry on happening.”

The 111 service and NHS England did not respond to requests for a comment.