A HUSBAND who tried to call the ambulance service after finding his wife on the sofa not breathing said he was told he could not be put through because it was too busy, an inquest heard.

At Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court, Trevor Cooper told North East Hampshire Coroner Andrew Bradley that he found his 68-year-old wife Janet on the sofa with her “fists clenched” on May 5 this year.

Realising something was wrong, he immediately called 999, but said: “They wouldn’t put me through.

“The operator said ‘there’s a lot of people on the line’. I said put me through to the police.”

Despite the service being inundated with calls, 67-year-old Mr Cooper said an ambulance arrived promptly after being called by the police, and paramedics tried to resuscitate his wife, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mrs Cooper’s son, Simon, told the inquest that his mother had suffered with a string of health complaints including depression, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia for 30 years.

Trevor Cooper told the inquest his wife took various prescription medications and also had an alcohol problem, and would regularly drink vodka and wine.

He said: “She was in pain. She had been in a lot of pain for the last couple of months before her death and she was drinking a lot.”

Simon added: “Obviously with the drugs it wasn’t good. She didn’t have a clue what she was doing sometimes.”

He said that his mother had given up alcohol a few days before her death, and a post mortem examination confirmed there was none in her blood.

Mr Bradley recorded a verdict of misadventure caused by mixed drug poisoning from an overdose of prescription painkillers.

He added: “It’s tragic that Janet was suffering from medial health problems and she’s heavily medicated and she’s topping it up with alcohol. Not a good combination. What surprised me and perhaps prompted enquiries was the speed with which this happened. Janet is up and about and within 10 to 15 minutes she’s dead and beyond redemption.”

He blamed the “build up” of drugs and alcohol in her system, adding: “She had been chronically abusing these for years. Her medical records show that she was clearly overusing. I don’t think for one minute that she intended to take her life.”

A statement from South Central Ambulance Service said the line cut out when the call was passed from the operator.

It added: “Our Clinical Coordination Centre tried multiple times to contact the number to obtain more information and provide further assistance but the telephone line would not connect. As we were concerned for the caller/the patient’s welfare we dispatched a rapid response vehicle to the address which we had managed to locate on our system having identified it by the landline telephone number.”

This arrived within 10 minutes, after police had also called.