Private ambulance firm suspended after Norfolk woman's death

Nick Fulcher (left) has fought for change at NSFT following the death of his mother-in-law, Peggy Co

Nick Fulcher, Peggy Copeman's son in law, said he felt action should have been taken sooner - Credit: Nick Fulcher

A private ambulance firm has been suspended after a grandmother "died while sitting between" staff as they transported her back to Norwich.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has suspended Premier Rescue Ambulance Services (PRAS), based in Taunton, following an inspection in April. 

The company was driving Peggy Copeman, from New Buckenham, on December 16 from Taunton back to Norwich when she was taken ill and died in the ambulance in an M11 layby in December 2019

Norfolk's senior coroner Jacqueline Lake sent a report to prevent future deaths to PRAS, which said staff transporting Mrs Copeman did not recognise she was in distress and that the 81-year-old had "effectively died whilst sat between them". 

Amanda Williams, CQC’s head of hospital inspection for the south of England, said:Premier Rescue Ambulance Services Limited has the right to appeal and further information will be published by CQC when we are able to do so."

In response to the suspension, Mrs Copeman's son-in-law Nick Fulcher, from North Lopham, said he did not understand why action had not been taken before the Section 28 report.

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Mr Fulcher said: "I feel it should have happened in the first place. 

"They were running up until that point. That is what I'm very cross about."

A five-day inquest into Mrs Copeman's death will begin on June 21. 

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Ahead of the full inquest Ms Lake issued the report, as evidence heard had given rise to concern and a risk that future deaths could occur unless action took place. 

She said: "The evidence so far is that during transit, Peggy did not respond when being called or when moving her head and on being noted as being unresponsive, emergency services were not called immediately but calls were initially made to Cygnet and then PRAS.

"CPR was started on being told to do so by emergency services."

The report also said of the three members of staff transporting Mrs Copeman, only one had CPR training.

A consultant cardiologist and general physician acting as an expert witness in the inquest said they were of the "firm view" staff transporting Mrs Copeman did not recognise she was in respiratory distress or cardiac arrest.

The report also said paramedics attending Mrs Copeman said due to the position of the patient in the back of the ambulance "CPR was ineffective". 

Premier Ambulance Rescue Service has been approached for comment.

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