An elderly man, who should have been seen within 10 minutes at a hospital, died after he fell and fractured his skull having been left unattended for an hour, an inquest heard.
John Lawrenson, 85, was taken to South Tyneside District Hospital on November 2, last year, after he is believed to have suffered a fall at his home in Ingham Grange, South Shields.
The hearing, led by South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney in Hebburn, was told police forced entry to Mr Lawrenson’s home after he failed to show up for a meeting with a friend.
He was taken to the Rapid Assessment and Treatment Unit (RATU) at the hospital’s accident and emergency department and checked over by nurse manager Julie Russell, who assessed he should be seen by a doctor within 10 minutes.
The inquest heard that Mr Anil Kumar, the A&E consultant on shift, didn’t see him until after he fell an hour later.
Staff nurse Katrina Abdullah told the hearing she saw Mr Lawrenson as he fell through the cubicle curtain and hit the floor.
“I need answers to what was going on between 3.35pm and 4pm” TERENCE CARNEY
The inquest heard that Mr Lawrenson was one of four patients in the RATU at the time he was seen by Miss Russell at 3.35pm and when her shift finished at 4pm.
A further three patients arrived by ambulance at about 4.10pm, and Mr Lawrenson suffered his fatal fall at about 4.35pm, but Mr Kumar said he had been “too busy” to see him and that he was “not aware” that it was so urgent.
Mr Carney adjourned the hearing so that more information around the timeline of patients’ arrivals could be brought forward.
He said: “I need answers as to what was going on between 3.35pm and 4pm and why you were unable, or people were unable to tell you, of the existence of this man and for this man to be seen.”
Home Office pathologist, Dr Nigel Cooper, said the cause of Mr Lawrenson’s death was a blunt head injury.
He said that the injury he suffered when falling in hospital left a laceration on the back of his head, fractured his skull and caused a bleeding inside the skull.
Mr Lawrenson was due to be taken for a CT scan to assess the damage to his brain but suffered a cardiac arrest before he could be taken.
He was resuscitated and taken for the scan, which revealed the bleed inside his head.
He then suffered another cardiac arrest and died at 6.47pm.
•The hearing continues.
Officers had found man confused and bruised
John Lawrenson had been due to meet his friend, Norma Hall, for lunch on the day he died and she became concerned when he didn’t show up.
She would have been due to give evidence at the inquest but died in a car crash just days after Mr Lawrenson’s death.
Detective Constable Colin Lether, of South Tyneside CID, said officers forced entry to the man’s address at around 12.45pm and found him lying in bed and confused.
He had a bruise on the side of his head and on his neck. An ambulance was called and he was taken to South Tyneside District Hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, at about 2.50pm.
Police said there was evidence that Mr Lawrenson had fallen at home because there was blood spatter on his bedding, in the bedroom and the bathroom.
Pc Ian Clough, of the firearms support unit, said he had heard over the radio that officers were concerned about Mr Lawrenson.
An ambulance had been called but one was not allocated and paramedics were not expected to arrive soon.
Pc Clough, who has advanced training in first aid, said Mr Lawrenson was vomiting and confused and had a bruise to the side of his head. He cared for Mr Lawrenson until paramedics arrived.
Proceedings are ongoing into Mrs Hall’s fatal car crash.