Hospital apologises after vulnerable 84-year-old died after falling out of bed amid staff shortages

By Toby Porter

A hospital trust has apologised after a vulnerable 84-year-old man died after he fell out of bed on one of its wards amid staff shortages.

George Malcolm Gomez, 84, from South Norwood, was admitted to Croydon University Hospital with stomach pain – but fell out of bed because there weren’t enough nurses on duty to supervise him, an inquest heard.

Representatives from the trust apologised to Malcolm’s family at the inquest.

The coroner issued a narrative conclusion that Malcolm’s “cause of death was a subdural haemorrhage as a result of a fall from his bed while he was unsupervised on the observation ward at Croydon University Hospital”.

The hospital has also agreed it needed to maintain a higher level of staffing on the ward.

Malcolm’s family are now taking legal action against the trust for negligence through London law firm Osbornes Law.

The inquest at the South London Coroner’s Court on April 19, heard the observation ward where Mr Gomez was placed had three patients, including him, who were “confused” and should have been given one-to-one care.

But only three nurses were on duty on the night Malcolm fell. All were agency staff and one was on a break while another had to deliver blood when Malcolm fell from his bed.

His daughter Sharon, 50, said: “My father was the kindest, most generous and thoughtful man and the devastation his loss has caused our family is immeasurable.

“We couldn’t have been closer as he literally lived next door to us and was in our lives every day.

“He was quite simply the best father and grandfather we could possibly have wished for.

“Dad touched so many people’s lives with his acts of kindness and I have lost count of the number of people I have never met who have come up to me in the street to ask after him.

“We are pleased the trust has apologised and put safeguards in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but that won’t bring this wonderful man back and we will always miss him terribly.

“He should have been allowed to pass away quietly watching the cricket, but instead he died in a brutal and violent way, alone in hospital where he should have been safest.

“It is crucial that no other family is put through the hell we have been through, as nobody should die from a fall in hospital.”

Malcolm, who leaves two children and two grandchildren, worked for the Department of Trade and Industry in Whitehall for 40 years.

“He was also a translator at the Old Bailey for a rare south Indian language Malayalam.

“He was admitted to hospital on January 21, 2020 and fell while on the observation ward two days later. He died on January 26.

Sharon, who is a supply teacher, added: “The nurses were put in an impossible situation as they had no choice but to leave my dad unsupervised.

“They should never have been put in this situation if the staffing levels had been correct.

“We are pleased the hospital has acknowledged the need for higher staffing levels and for there to be at least one permanent member of staff on duty at all times on the ward.

“They must now stick to this to ensure nobody else unnecessarily loses their life.”

Nicholas Leahy, a specialist medical negligence lawyer from Osbornes Law who represents the family, said: “Mr Gomez went into hospital with abdominal pain and ended up dying in a completely unrelated fall.

“This is unacceptable and should never have been allowed to happen.

“While we are pleased the trust identified some failings around Mr Gomez’s death and have pledged to correct these issues, they must learn from this tragic case to ensure this never happens again.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Health Services NHS Trust said: “Our deepest condolences are with the family of Mr Gomez. We strive to provide every patient with safe, high quality care and are incredibly sorry that on this occasion, we fell short of these expectations.

“We have provided evidence to the Coroner of improved processes for resolving temporary staffing issues as well as the implementation of enhanced care teams and dedicated falls prevention leads on our inpatient wards, ensuring additional support for patients at high risk of falls.”

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