A BEREAVED mother has paid tribute to her ‘happy and social’ son at an inquest which heard of his tragic death in Windsor.

James Scott Hitching, known by family and friends as Jamie, died on October 22, 2022, having taken a fatal amount of drugs and medication, an inquest has heard.

In the inquest, held at Reading Coroners Court on January 8, it was also heard how demand on ambulance services meant Mr Hitching was left in a serious condition at a home in Windsor for several hours after the 999 call. The coroner ruled this ‘a partial failure’ by South Central Ambulance Service having not got to the incident sooner, however added this did not amount to neglect as part of the 42 year old’s death.

The court heard how Mr Hitching's death followed a turbulent time in his life where he was struggling with addiction and depression, and had seen his children taken into foster care.

Mr Hitching sought help for his addiction to alcohol and cocaine in August 2021, where he would go on to have regular appointments with Dr Christos Kouimtsdis, a psychiatrist specialising in addiction who said he was making progress.

During his last appointment with Dr Kouimtsdis on October 19, 2022, consultants said that he was doing "really well" and that his mood was "stabilising" while he was "not using".

The inquest heard how Mr Hitching had hoped to gain custody of his two children with a court case set for December, for which he would have to provide a hair sample to prove he was no longer drinking or taking drugs.

An NHS assessor John Hale told the court: "He was looking forward to changing, getting his children back and changing his life for the positive."

However, following a night of drinking with a mate, Mr Hitching feared he had "blown it" in the days before his death.

The court went on to hear how on October 21, 2022, the father of two went on to take a fatal amount of medication that did not belong to him, and sent a distressed text to his brother.

His mother Susan Cousins called for an ambulance shortly before 9pm which arrived the next morning at 6am. Mr Hitching was tragically pronounced dead at the scene.

In a 999 call heard by the court, Mr Hitching was still conscious but reluctant to talk to the ambulance staff, when the call was made.

The call handler, Zoe Tysoe was two months into her role as a clinical support nurse practitioner when she took the 999 call. She deemed the call  a "category three ambulance" - meaning an ambulance should arrive within two hours in 90 per cent of cases.

During the court case Miss Tysoe said: “[On reflection] I would have made it a category two," - which would have seen an ambulance arrive within 40 minutes.”

Debbie Diffey, who has worked with South Central Ambulance Services for 12 years, added that while there was no guarantee that an upgrade to a category two would have got to Mr Hitching in time, there was a greater chance of saving him.

Mrs Diffey said a "demand in the service" meant that instead of being sent to the scene at 9pm, an ambulance could not be dispatched until 6am.

"It is a national problem and all ambulance services are working through a number of initiatives with NHS England to cope with demand," she added.

"If demand hadn't been so high that night a category three would have been sufficient."

The post-mortem report found no suspicious injuries but the toxicology report found a fatal amount of drugs in Mr Hitching's system. It was deemed that his death was the result of the combined toxic effects of the drugs.

The closing statement by coroner Robert Simpson said: "Jamie took a very significant amount of drugs. However, he had a history when he took overdoses where he did not intend to end his own life.

"I do not think there is sufficient evidence to say Jamie intended to take his own life.

"It is accepted by the ambulance service that there was a failing. Having considered it very carefully I find it cannot be said that there was a complete failure. There was a partial failure.

"Neglect did not contribute to Jamie's death."

Honouring her son, Mrs Cousins said: "He was a happy person. He got on with everyone. Everyone liked him. He had lots of friends.

"He was a good son to me. It was such a shock that he had done it. It is a tragedy.

"He didn't mean to commit suicide. It was another cry for help. He had so much to look forward to."

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