Hereford & Worcester

West Midlands Ambulance Service sued over bowel death

Lynda Gower Image copyright Ray Gower
Image caption Mrs Gower initially began feeling unwell on Christmas Day in 2017

The family of a woman who died when her bowel burst, hours after paramedics decided not to take her to hospital, is suing West Midlands Ambulance Service.

A paramedic admitted in an inquest he had failed to do a routine check on Lynda Gower that would have shown she needed hospital treatment.

Her husband said he was "shocked" the coroner ruled she had died of natural causes when the evidence suggested it was likely she would have survived.

The ambulance service has apologised.

Mrs Gower, 63, from Redditch, started feeling unwell on Christmas Day in 2017. She saw her GP on 27 December, who diagnosed gastroenteritis, but by 28 December she had not been to the toilet and had been vomiting for three days.

An inquest heard by Worcestershire coroner Geraint Williams was told an ambulance was called and arrived within three minutes. Paramedic Jake Cluely told the hearing Mrs Gower had a pain score of nine out of 10 but that he failed to calculate a National Early Warning Score (NEWS), which is a tool used to improve the detection and response to clinical deterioration in patients.

He was unable to tell the hearing why he had not done it.

Image copyright Ray Gower
Image caption Ray Gower said the conclusion of the inquest into his wife's death was a 'big shock'

The NEWS score of seven would have indicated she should be taken to the hospital. However, Mrs Gower was instead given intravenous fluids and pain relief and advised about medication for constipation and vomiting. She was told to call 999 if she deteriorated.

"She was in a lot of pain, she could hardly speak. She wasn't moving," her husband Ray said.

Later that day, Mrs Gower went into cardiac arrest at home. Emergency services were called and she was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she died.

The inquest heard she had a twisted bowel that had ruptured. Surgeon Dr Benjamin Tan told the court if it had been treated before it burst, it was more likely than not she would have lived.

But, summing up, Mr Williams said there could be no criticism of the paramedics and recorded a conclusion of natural causes.

Mr Gower said: "I actually thought he conducted the inquest quite well. We got towards the end and I thought 'ah well he's picked up on everything that's gone on, there won't be a problem here', so when I got the summing up he gave, there was a big shock."

Image copyright Ray Gower
Image caption Mrs Gower was initially given intravenous fluids and pain relief and told to call 999 if she deteriorated

Following the inquest, Mr Gower sought legal advice. He now has reports from three expert witnesses who have indicated Mrs Gower should have been taken to hospital and, if operated on before her bowel perforated, she would have lived.

He is taking legal action against West Midlands Ambulance Service.

His lawyer, Kashmir Uppal, said: "These failings are failings in basic care. The NEWS assessment tool is there to identify patients who are at risk and then to use that assessment tool which is a simple tool to use to admit to hospital."

In a statement West Midlands Ambulance Service said the findings of an internal investigation into the care provided to Mrs Gower were presented at the inquest.

"We accepted that the care did not meet the standards expected for which we are very sorry. We have provided her family with a copy of the report," it said.

"We would once again like to offer our condolences to her family."

The legal claim is being dealt with by NHS Resolution.

Mr Williams has since retired. In a statement, the new senior coroner for Worcestershire, David Reid, said: "I have no power to reopen an inquest or to reconsider the evidence heard or the conclusions reached.

"In those circumstances it would not be right for me or for the coroner who heard the inquest to enter into any correspondence."

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