Pensioner died after trainee doc sent him home

A PENSIONER who was taken to hospital after falling from a ladder died three days after he was told to go home by a junior doctor.

Brian Steels fell 8ft while working on his garage roof in Goathland Drive, Hartlepool, and slammed his head against a bin before it hit the pavement.

He was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, but was sent home after a trainee doctor decided he didn’t have symptoms of a serious head injury.

But he was rushed to the University Hospital of Hartlepool just three days later on March 25 after feeling unwell.

Medics discovered a severe bleed on his brain and he died the same day.

Dr Anne Thistlethwaite, consultant in emergency medicine for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust, admitted at an inquest into Mr Steels’ death at Hartlepool Coroner’s Court that the doctor had made a mistake.

She said Mr Steele should have been kept in overnight to be monitored as it “might have made a difference” and that senior doctors are in accident and emergency 24-hours-a-day and should have been consulted by the junior.

Since Mr Steels’ death, a meeting has been held with medics and the family, and the trust now has a consultant in A&E from 8am-10pm every day, with one on call at other times.

The court was told that Mr Steels’ injury was made worse as he was already taking blood-thinning tablets for another medical problem.

Dr Thistlethwaite told the court: “I think Mr Steels should have been admitted in view of the fact he had a serious injury and had fallen from quite a height, and that he was on this medication that can thin the blood and cause further bleeding.

“Even though at the time he looked well, there was still the potential for further complications.”

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly said there is a “public issue” over the incident due to the closure of Hartlepool’s A&E in August.

People now go to the Stockton hospital with serious injuries or the One Life Hartlepool minor injuries unit, in Park Road.

Mr Donnelly said: “I need to be satisfied that safety issues are held in the highest priority. You may not have that confidence if you saw a trainee in the accident and emergency department.

“There is a public issue in town over the downgrading of the hospital and people need to have confidence in what is happening.”

He added: “It’s important to understand that the doctor did not mean any harm. People can only do their best, even if it isn’t good enough.

“It seems things have been tightened up a bit, but that doesn’t bring Mr Steels back, does it?

Mr Steels’s wife, Margaret, was in court to hear Mr Donnelly record a narrative verdict by saying: “This was an accidental death aggravated by a failure to initiate timely and appropriate medical investigation.”

She had been holding the ladder when her husband fell at 1.10pm on March 22.

She told Mr Donnelly: “He went to step up and caught his trousers or something. The next thing he was coming down the ladder. I tried to catch him but he went through my arms and hit his head.”