AN ambulance took three hours to reach a woman who had fallen downstairs at her home, an inquest heard.

Christine Stafford, 64, who lived alone, died in the Royal Blackburn Hospital on April 6 last year, the day after she fell down the stairs and banged her head.


The fall resulted in a severe blood clot, Burnley Coroner’s Court heard.

East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor was told Mrs Stafford’s friend Joyce Nevison rang 999 after becoming concerned about her friend, who had rung her at 6pm on April 5 and said that she had fallen downstairs and hit her head, which was bleeding heavily.

Mrs Nevison told her friend the ambulance service advised her not to eat or drink anything and to leave her door unlocked so that they could get in.

In a statement to the coroner, Mrs Nevison said: “That was the last time we spoke. I tried to call her again at 8pm but she didn’t answer.”

Mrs Nevison called for a final time at 9.30pm. A police officer answered and told her that her friend was being taken to hospital.

When police broke into the address in Wordsworth Street, Hapton, Mrs Stafford was found upstairs in the bedroom, lying on her back. Paramedics noticed a small amount of blood on the bed, and she was placed on a spinal board and taken to hospital.

A CT scan showed a large bleed on the brain and specialists decided that she was not a candidate for neurosurgery. The wait for an ambulance is not thought to have contributed to this.

The coroner was told that the first call came in at 6.30pm from Mrs Nevison, and it was correctly given a “green two” code, so paramedics should have aimed to respond within 30 minutes. This is a local target set by the Clinical Commissioning Group and not a government target.

Mr Taylor heard that errors made by two different ambulance dispatchers meant that an ambulance was not sent to the address within the target time. In one instance the call should have been upgraded to a higher priority and on another occasion the ambulance was diverted to another call.

The situation was compounded due to a high demand on the service that evening, the inquest heard.

John Kilroe, education training manager at North West Ambulance Service, said that at one stage the ambulance was diverted to deal with a 10-year-old boy suspected of having meningitis.

Since Mrs Stafford’s death, staff have been retrained and new procedures implemented. North West Ambulance Service has also since received funding for 60 emergency ambulances and solo response vehicles as well as 400 operational staff, the inquest heard.

The coroner said that by the time Mrs Stafford reached the hospital her chances of surviving were extremely low because of the size of the bleed on the brain. He said: “There was a very high demand that night. That’s the reason ambulances were sent elsewhere on three occasions coupled with two individuals’ errors.”

He returned a conclusion of accidental death.