The family of a woman who was left to fall onto her face in hospital, despite being admitted for a head injury, heard about the ‘serious failings’ in her care at an inquest today.

On November 3, 2012, 41-year-old Frances Richards was admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, following a fall in her home.

After hitting her head and receiving quick treatment from paramedics, Mrs Richards should have been assessed by a trauma team and transferred for a CT scan within an hour of her arrival to A and E.

Today, however, it emerged that the Epping woman was left without the necessary assessments and treatments for more than two hours.

During this time, Mrs Richards, unwatched by nurses, stood up at the end of her bed and fell onto her face.

Rather than calling a trauma team, A and E staff scooped the patient up and put her back into the bed.

Giving evidence today, Night Matron Jenny Styles apologised for failing to take the appropriate action.

She said: “I’m really sorry. I think we just panicked in all honesty.”

The nurses say that Mrs Richards was agitated, something which they put down to the level of alcohol in her blood, rather than the serious injury she had sustained.

A decision was made not to carry out a CT scan, until she had ‘sobered up’.

Mrs Richards sadly passed away five days later at the Queens Hospital, Romford, as a result of the damage to her brain.

At the coroner’s court in Chelmsford, Consultant Dr Abdul Jawad, said that following the tragedy, policies at the hospital have now been changed.

He said: “The patient should have had a CT scan within one hour of the request, there was about a two hour delay.

“There was a significant delay. That delay, we felt, has caused the second fall to some extent.

“If she had had the CT scan earlier, discussions with Queens Hospital would have been earlier, everything would have been earlier.

“I would have expected this patient to have a health care assistant with her. She was at high risk of falling.

“Following the serious incident we have published a document that has been seen by all staff.

“We have looked at all the failings; no other patient should suffer the same failings. There was a lack of cohesiveness and leadership within the trauma team.

“Since the incident we have simulated this scenario so that it should not be repeated.”

In the Root Cause and Investigation Report new standards were set out for the hospital and came into effect on November 30, as a result of the hospital’s failings.

Now, anybody who is admitted to the hospital with head trauma must have a CT scan within one hour. The anesthetist is now in charge of transporting the patient to the scan and patients must not be picked up from the floor if they have a suspected head injury without the trauma team being called.

Evidence given by the pathologist and Professor Paul Marks, an expert in head injuries, however, indicated that it is not scientifically possible to prove whether or not Mrs Richards would have survived had she not fallen again.

What they did agree on, was that potentially life-saving assessments and treatments were given far too late.


Coroner Caroline Beasley- Murray recorded a narrative verdict.

She said: “The deceased suffered a head injury at was taken to Princess Alexandra Hospital, arriving at 1.27am on November 3.

“At 03.50 hours in the emergency department she suffered a second head injury. She was transferred to the Queens Hospital, Romford, where she died on November 8, 2012.

“There were serious failings, including missed opportunities to provided treatment in the care provided at the A and E department at Princess Alexandra Hospital. She should never have been put in a position whereby she sustained a second injury.

“The second injury made a material contribution to her overall traumatic brain injury.

“It is not possible to find out in the absence of the second injury whether or not she would have survived.”

The Guardian is expecting a statement from the family tomorrow.