Steyning woman’s death after falls ruled to be ‘accidental’

A jury inquest into the death of Duncan Tomlin is being held at Crawley Coroner's Court
A jury inquest into the death of Duncan Tomlin is being held at Crawley Coroner's Court

A woman who died whilst being treated at hospital fell twice when she was meant to be being supervised by staff, an inquest has heard.

Patricia Toms, of Laines Road, Steyning, died on August 29 at Worthing Hospital.

At an inquest into her death on Tuesday (February 26) Joanne Andrews, assistant coroner for West Sussex, said two falls she experienced whilst being treated at the hospital had contributed to her death but concluded the death was accidental.

In evidence read out by coroners’ officer Geoff Charnock the inquest heard how Mrs Toms had fallen at her home on July 22 last year.

The 84-year-old was taken to Worthing Hospital by her husband Roger the following day where she was kept in for scans and further assessment.

The inquest heard that on August 8 Mr Toms received a phone call from the hospital saying his wife had fallen again. He went to the hospital to find she was on the floor with doctors and staff around her.

Mr Charnock said she had fallen whilst trying to go to the toilet and had hit her head on the floor. In the evidence Mr Toms said his wife was never the same after the fall. She experienced hallucinations and thought staff and patients were out to harm her.

The inquest was told Mrs Toms was supposed to be under supervision from staff at the hospital. However, in this instance the hospital had admitted she was not being supervised due to staff shortages.

Mr Toms said he was told she would be supervised however, on August 28, she fell again.

She was found by hospital staff collapsed outside the toilet near her bed. The inquest heard scans showed she had a fractured pelvis and a ‘further bleed on the brain’.

The inquest heard Mrs Toms was meant to be under supervision and had been checked 30 minutes prior to her fall. However, she was not supervised when she had got up and fell on her way to the bathroom.

Mrs Toms’ condition deteriorated and she died the following day, the inquest heard.

A post-mortem found Mrs Toms died of ‘acute bronchopneumonia, high blood pressure due to heart disease and chronic kidney disease and frailty due to old age exacerbated by head injury caused as a result of two patient falls’.

Mrs Andrews acknowledged the falls had contributed to her death but concluded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Toms told the inquest: “As I said to the hospital I can’t pin the fault to anybody there as such but I do feel the system and the hospital as a whole let her down.

“The first time she fell was bad enough but the second time they admitted there was nobody there when they said someone was going to be there all the time.

“I do know my wife was very strong willed and I can only assume that she probably wanted to go to the toilet and wanted to do it on her own.”

He described his wife as an animal lover who was also very artistic.

“She did a lot of painting, mostly water colours and making cards. She was very talented in that respect.”

Roger added he was only expecting her to be in hospital for a few days and had installed a stairlift in preparation for her to come home.

“I really thought she was coming back.”