‘Mother’s life was less important than sport’

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THE family of a woman who died following a stroke have hit out after the ambulance was refused the quickest route to Watford General Hospital because of a sporting event at the football ground next door.

John Coughtrey, of Hobbs Hill Road, Hemel Hempstead, believes his mother-in-law could have survived if a police officer had not sent the ambulance on a diversion that he claims added 20 minutes to the journey time.

“If someone has had a stroke it’s time critical,” he said. “It delayed her getting there by 20 minutes. The stink of it is why should football and rugby take precedence over someone’s life?”

He added: “To close Hemel in favour of Watford beside a major football ground was berserk.”

MP Mike Penning has now taken up the case of Pamela Griffith, 83, who suffered a minor stroke during Sunday lunch on November 13, 2011.

A paramedic response unit arrived first followed by an ambulance later.

“It’s a disgrace,” Mr Penning said. “The ambulance had a blue light clearly displayed and the police turned them away.”

Mrs Griffith suffered a bigger stroke a few days after being admitted and spent 12 weeks in hospital before being transferred to a care home where she died on January 17.

Ambulance chiefs confirm it took 41 minutes to get from Hobbs Hill Road to Watford General Hospital, where Saracens were playing Benetton Treviso next door.

Gary Sanderson, spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “All ambulance crews who work locally to that area are aware of these diversions that are set up on game days.”

Herts police say they are investigating. Spokesman Olivia Finucane said: “We’re treating it extremely seriously.”