A MAN died from meningitis days after being diagnosed with an ear infection and sent home from an emergency ward, an inquest heard.

Father-of-one Lee Saunders, 39, of West View, Clitheroe, died on December 10 at Royal Blackburn Hospital after failing to regain consciousness after falling into a coma five days earlier.

Previously he been told he had an ear infection and sent home with drops and painkillers.

An inquest in Blackburn heard evidence from his wife Clare Saunders, who said that on December 3 her husband had complained of severe pain on and around his ear.

She said: "Lee had a very high pain threshold.

"He normally just got on with things.

"He never complained, even when he had the flu, but that day he called me when I was out walking the dog, asked me to come home, saying, 'I'm in agony'."

Later that day Mr Saunders, a BT engineer, was taken by ambulance to accident and emergency at Royal Blackburn Hospital where he was seen several hours later by a mid-ranking doctor, Kumar Pratyush.

He was later released after seeing the doctor but his condition deteriorated at home and he was admitted in a semi-conscious state, just over a day later.

Giving evidence to the court Dr Pratyush said he had examined Mr Saunders during a 'very busy' shift.

He said by then, after taking painkillers, Mr Saunders was not in a distressed state and the pain had receded.

He said: "I chatted to him for about 20 minutes, examined him and during that I could not pick any red flags, he seemed comfortable.

"We communicated clearly.

"At that time he had no earache or headache and his pulse and temperature were normal.

"I pulled back his ears to examine the inner canal and he did not exhibit any pain."

Dr Pratyush said that when he was told that Mr Saunders had died from bacterial meningitis he was 'totally shocked'.

He added: "I was so deeply saddened, totally devastated that this had happened to such a nice person.

"When I saw him I just didn't get any red flags."

Senior Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley coroner Michael Singleton concluded that Mr Saunders died from natural causes.

He said: "From a coronial point of view my key question is whether there was a gross failure to provide medical attention to Mr Saunders which would amount to neglect.

"That is not the case.

"My assessment is that on the the first occasion he presented at hospital it was just to soon and on the second occasion it was too late and the symptoms had advanced.

"He died from natural causes.

"To his family who had a lifetime ahead with him I can only offer my heartfelt sympathies."