A care alarm service has made changes to how it operates after a coroner recommended action to prevent future incidents following the death of an 89-year-old who fell while being transferred from a wheelchair in a hoist.
City Wide Care Alarms (CWCA) is a service run by Sheffield council that offers users an alarm button to call for assistance if they fall.
One of its users, Allan Shepard, died hours after a fall which happened while he was being transferred by his son.
Mr Shepard’s son called for help using the CWCA service and requested an emergency responder, who is supposed to attend the incident within 30 minutes, an inquest heard.
However, one of CWCA’s on-duty crews had just one staff member available, and the service’s policy dictated that they were not able to attend the incident alone.
The incident was instead referred to the ambulance service, which has a four hour waiting time, but by the time paramedics arrived, Mr Shepard, who in the meantime was ‘trapped in his hoist’ and had started to breathe with difficulty, had already lost consciousness. He died later in hospital.
In a report published last week, Angharad Davies, assistant coroner for South Yorkshire, wrote a number of recommendations in the wake of Mr Shepard’s death.
Ms Davies suggested that CWCA should reconsider its staffing levels to ensure it has more responders available at any given time to prevent future deaths.
Writing to the council’s chief executive, John Mothersole, and the CWCA manager, Ms Davies also advised that the service should reconsider its policy that prevented a single responder attending an incident on their own.
Her report concluded: “In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you or your organisation have the power to take such action.”
Phil Holmes, director of adult services, told The Star that the council is “very sorry” about the death of Mr Shepard.
He said: “Our City Wide Care Alarm staff did the right thing by immediately contacting an ambulance once they were aware of the seriousness of the situation.
“The council has now updated procedures to ensure that, even if for any unforeseen reason only one worker is available for an urgent response, they will still visit in the event of a fall.
“Even though it won’t be safe for one person to attempt to move or lift an individual who has fallen, they can still help ensure that they remain comfortable until other support arrives.
“This change was made from the beginning of January this year. City Wide Care Alarms are also ensuring that all information held about people supported is updated on at least an annual basis to help keep pace with any changing needs.”