Inquest to be held in Preston for Burnley grandmother who suffered severe fall after ambulance technician’s error

A family is hoping for answers at an inquest into the death of a 93-year-old Burnley grandmother who suffered a severe fall when an ambulance technician used an ‘unsafe’ lifting technique.
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A previously fiercely independent Doreen Pilling was in extreme pain after the incident on September 3rd 2023, which was witnessed by her family. A second ambulance crew attended, which this time included a qualified paramedic, and Doreen was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital where it was discovered that her right leg was broken.

However, Doreen, who during her working life was a food technology teacher at Burnley College for adults with learning disabilities, never came home from hospital.

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After weeks at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and Pendle Community Hospital, where she was transferred to, Doreen died on October 24th 2023. Her cause of death was said to be hospital acquired pneumonia, due to a fracture of her right leg, and frailty of old age.

Doreen PillingDoreen Pilling
Doreen Pilling

In a letter to Doreen’s family the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has stated that the ambulance technician who attended to Doreen should never have used a rolled up towel to try to lift her when she became trapped in her bathroom in the early hours of the morning due to a loss of power in her legs, as this was unsafe. It states that if the correct equipment had been used, it is unlikely that she would have fallen to the floor.

Doreen’s daughter Christine Fitzpatrick (65) said: “My mum was the heart of the family and words alone are not enough to describe the impact of her death in such distressing circumstances. We want answers about her treatment and to give her a voice. She spent so many years helping others and would want lessons to be learned where needed to protect other patients.”

Madeleine Langmead, specialist medical negligence solicitor at law firm JMW, has been asked by Christine to investigate the care Doreen received from NWAS and the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is responsible for the Royal Blackburn and Pendle Community Hospital.

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She said: “This is a very tragic case as Doreen suffered incredibly in the last weeks of her life and her family had to witness this. The coroner’s verdict about Doreen’s death will form a key part of my investigation as it will hopefully provide vital information about the actions of the ambulance technician, Doreen’s deterioration in hospital and whether this could have been avoided.”

The inquest into Doreen’s death will take place on Wednesday 10th April, at 10am at Preston Coroner’s CourtThe inquest into Doreen’s death will take place on Wednesday 10th April, at 10am at Preston Coroner’s Court
The inquest into Doreen’s death will take place on Wednesday 10th April, at 10am at Preston Coroner’s Court
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Doreen lived in her own flat in the Townfields retirement complex, Burnley. While family helped with her shopping, Doreen cooked all her own meals. She had been a Salvation Army Soldier after husband Ken’s death in 2008 and enjoyed delivering food parcels on Christmas Day.

The inquest into Doreen’s death will take place on April 10th, at 10am at Preston Coroner’s Court.

A NWAS spokesperson said: “Our sincere condolences go to Doreen’s family during this difficult time.

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“Following concerns they raised over the care Doreen received on 3 September 2023, we completed a thorough internal investigation. Those findings have been sent to the family, and we have offered sincere apologies for the mistake that was made and the distress it has caused.

“We are participating fully in the coronial process; however, it would be inappropriate to comment further until that is finished.”

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