Public health expert says Hillsborough emergency response was ‘woefully inadequate’

St John Ambulance on the pitch at Hillsborough.
St John Ambulance on the pitch at Hillsborough.
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A doctor who made sure injured football fans were loaded onto ambulances at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster was warned by a senior medical official not to publicly criticise the emergency services, an inquest heard.

Professor John Ashton set up a triage system on the concourse at Sheffield Wednesday because nobody was organising the casualties, he said.

In evidence at the new inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool FC fans, he said he made sure injured fans were prioritised so those who most needed it were taken to hospital, because police were putting fans with relatively minor injuries onto ambulances.

The Liverpool fan, who was at the match with his sons, was a senior public health lecturer at Liverpool University at the time.

He said he went to help after hearing a tannoy appeal at 3.25pm because a ‘meltdown situation’ was developing.

He told the jury although 999 workers were doing their best, ambulances were slow to arrive with the first arriving at 3.45pm.

Prof Ashton said he gave an interview to a radio station on the day of the tragedy and later received a call from Dr Alderslade, the regional medical officer for Trent.

He said: “He told me I should refrain from publicly criticising the emergency services. He told me that there had already been a meeting of the emergency services and they said the ambulances had arrived promptly and that the emergency response had been good and adequate.

“I was a bit taken aback. I had my own views on what had happened. I am a doctor, I was there. I saw what happened. I have told the truth about this. I am confident that what I have said is what happened.”

He later gave a witness statement describing the ambulance service response as ‘woefully inadequate’.

The jury also heard from Dr Edward Walker the only trained medic in A&E at the Northern General able to resuscitate the first of the Hillsborough patients.