French medical staff have been accused of “squandering” vital time that could have saved Diana, Princess of Wales.
Professor Thomas Treasure, a leading British surgeon, told the Princess’s inquest that a “window of opportunity” may have existed to get her to hospital half an hour before she was taken there.
He said that medics had done “very substantial good” in the initial period after the accident but that once Diana was in the ambulance time began “slipping away”.
Although the combination Diana’s injuries following her high-speed crash in the Pont d’Alma were extremely rare and serious, Prof Treasure said it was theoretically possible that she might have been saved.
The court heard of a discrepancy between the French approach to multiple-injury patients – which favours treatment at the scene – and the “scoop and run” approach taken in the UK.
Diana was freed from the wreckage of her Mercedes at 1am on August 31 1997, within 35 minutes of the crash.
But it was not until 1.40am that she was judged sufficiently stable to be taken to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital across Paris, having suffered an apparent cardiac arrest.
The ambulance was also ordered to drive slowly so as not to further destabilise the Princess en route.
On one occasion, just metres from the hospital, the vehicle had to stop for around five minutes while treatment was administated when Diana’s blood pressure dropped perilously low, the jury heard.
A series of senior French doctors told the inquest that had Diana not been given such intense treatment on the way she would arrived at the hospital dead.
Doctors finally gave up the battle at 4am after extensive emergency surgery to stem massive internal bleeding on the right side of her chest.
But Prof Treasure questioned the treatment given to Diana and the decision to stop so close to the hospital rather than speed up.
He said: “They had done some very substantial good relatively quickly – stabilising the neck, getting her out of the car with just a brief episode when they lost the pulse, they got things going again and produced a normal blood pressure.”
“Whether within a minute of hospital you put your foot on the accelerator or put your foot on the brake is also open to debate,” he said.
Prof Treasure, a former president of the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery, added: “They had done a lot of good in that first half hour but from there, [but] the next big amount of good that could be done required a surgeon.”
Counsel to the inquest Nicholas Hilliard asked: “Is it your view that part of that time, the essential period, was squandered?”
He replied: “It’s a hard word, isn’t it, but I think opportunities were lost.”
He went on: “At the point at which she was in the ambulance and that initial assessment had been done pretty accurately and the neck was stabilised and the circulation … I’m not quite sure what happened after that, that they didn’t have her in hospital rather sooner.”
He added: “When I pick through this with the benefit of hindsight (and ask) ‘was this recoverable?’ the answer is ‘Yes, it just about was’.”
The inquest was adjourned and continues on Tuesday.