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Street fall death - inquest

PUBLISHED: 17:49 22 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:19 03 July 2010

AN ambulance crew who assessed a pensioner who fell over after leaving a Great Yarmouth pub and died two days later from head injures did not receive the correct information on how serious his injuries were, an inquest heard today .

AN ambulance crew who assessed a pensioner who fell over after leaving a Great Yarmouth pub and died two days later from head injures did not receive the correct information on how serious his injuries were, an inquest heard today .

Henry Purnell was found laying in the street unconscious near the Duke of Wellington pub on Friday, February 2 last year and died in the James Paget University Hospital 48 hours later.

An on-going inquest heard that emergency medical technicians did not know the 77-year-old of Marine Parade had been found unconscious and that if they had realised, they might have provided a fuller assessment of his head injury.

After carrying out an on-street appraisal of the former steel erector's condition, the crew were happy to hand Mr Purnell over to four police who put him into custody on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly.

Several hours later a police doctor told officers to take Mr Purnell to hospital where he subsequently died.

A post mortem revealed the Mr Purnell's's brain had suffered severe bruising, cuts and haemorrhaging.

An inquest jury heard that the ambulance crew attended the incident in St Peter's Road at about 5.50pm and tried to treat Mr Purnell who fended them off by thrashing his arms about.

Emergency technicians Emma Hicks and Michael Warner were only able to assess Mr Purnell's head injury after police were called in to calm him down.

Both crew members told the jury they had not received full information on a 999 call which said Mr Purnell was unconscious and said they just believed a man had been found lying in the street.

Ms Hicks said if she had known that Mr Purnell had been knocked out by his fall she would have carried out more checks on the unco-operative patient in her ambulance before considering letting him go.

When she arrived on the scene, Ms Hicks said that Mr Purnell, who had drunk six pints in the pub, appeared conscious, only had a small dried cut to the back of his head, had a normal heart rate and was breathing normally.

Ms Hicks said: “He was laughing and kept calling me 'lovely lady'. He said he would be alright and wanted to stay there (in the road).

But she added: “He started thrashing out with his arms.”

The crew called in police to deal with Mr Purnell, who agreed that an on-street examination could be carried out on his head.

They were satisfied their patient did not appear to be badly injured and allowed him to go with four officers.

Marcus Bailey, ambulance trust manager, said he did not know why the two crew had not received the proper information from their control room as it “was best practice” to read all dispatches notices.

Mr Bailey said that perhaps the crew were too busy getting equipment ready for the incident or were concentrating on their route.

The inquest is expected to last until Friday.

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