Inquiry told of fatal fall from ambulance

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A son has told an inquiry into his mother’s death, following a fall as she came out of an ambulance, that the family is still waiting for an answer five years later.

Artist Fiona Barber, 71, hit her head on the ground when she lost her grip and fell coming out of the vehicle backwards at the entrance to Borders General Hospital.

She was attending a routine appointment on December 21, 2009, when she fell on a health worker who was guiding her out of the ambulance.

Mrs Barber, of Bridgelands House, near Lindean, died two weeks later at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

A fatal accident inquiry at Selkirk was told she suffered rheumatoid arthritis and had had various joint replacements.

Keith Murray, 52, a patient transport care worker with the Scottish Ambulance Service, said she walked with the assistance of a four-wheel trolley rollater, but had declined to be put into the ambulance at her home on a wheelchair using the vehicle’s hydraulic platform.

Mr Murray said he was guiding her out of the vehicle backwards when she lost her grip on the handrail.

He told Sheriff James Farrell: “She fell plank solid. There was no buckling of the knees. It was a straight motion.

“I tried to break her fall, but because of the joint replacements, she fell like a domino.”

Mr Murray said Mrs Barber glanced her head against the door before hitting the ground.

Son Jonathan Barber told the inquiry: “We were only told there was not going to be a prosecution in June last year. The family have waited a long time for this and want to see some effective recommendations.

“It is the family view that this was a preventable accident. It really devastated the whole family. My father took it really badly. The stress was enormous on him and he died of cancer a year and 10 days after. He never really recovered from it and spent most of the year trying to understand what happened.

“We want to find out why it occurred and would like to see material and effective recommendations in patient-handling, both in the Scottish Ambulance Service and Borders General Hospital, so that vulnerable patients are spared this sort of thing happening again.”

Mrs Barber was a commercial artist before being affected by arthritis.

The inquiry continues.