Dad died after ambulance crew refused to treat him without support from police officers

Sunderland Coroner's Court.
Sunderland Coroner's Court.

A paramedic crew refused to tend to a dad - who was dying at his home - without police support after it was revealed he had a history of aggression towards emergency services, an inquest heard.

Darren James Powney, 37, called 999 on the morning of December 28 last year, believing he was suffering a heart attack.

The North East Ambulance Service was instructed to attend Mr Powney’s home in Houghton, but after discovering a number of “warning markers” on his record, they refused to go to the property unless accompanied by officers from Northumbria Police, an inquest into his death heard.

He called 999 at 6.52am on December 28 to complain of breathlessness and pain in his chest and arms, but it wasn’t until almost an hour later that a police officer arrived at the Shields Place house, quickly followed by paramedics who had been waiting nearby.

He was found slumped in a chair in the living room.

Mr Powney’s teenage son, who was sleeping in a bedroom, was awoken by the first police officer on the scene.

Mr Powney, who worked as a delivery driver, was pronounced dead at 8.50am, with a post-mortem examination later revealing that he had suffered a pulmonary embolism, which is the sudden blockage of a major blood vessel in the lung.

During the hearing, Mr Powney’s phone call to the emergency services was played for the benefit of the jury.

In it Mr Powney can be heard saying he thought he was “having a heart attack”, before adding “I can’t breathe”.

His last plea to the call handler was “hurry up please”.

North East Ambulance Service records found that Mr Powney had a history of showing aggression when being treated by paramedics which included admitting owning weapons, including two claw hammers, which he kept in his van.

Paramedics had treated Mr Powney at his home on three occasions in the months running up to his death without any problems, with the callouts happening in August, September and November.

After discussions with call handler staff, officer Pc Graham Norton, who had attended Mr Powney’s home on previous occasions when he had been unwell, was sent to the house, arriving before 7.50am.

David Stobbs, 24/7 response sergeant with Northumbria Police, said: “The reason I made the decision to send Pc Norton was that it was getting ridiculous, the passage of time. There was no other factor.

“It was getting silly so I said to the police officer ‘make this happen please’.”

Protocol agreed by police and the ambulance service is to attend calls even if a patient has been known to be violent in the past, and if they are on that occasion, re-contact police for assistance, the inquest heard.

In dealing with the incident following Mr Powney’s 999 call, Sergeant David Stobbs told the inquest: “The protocol is for the ambulance crew to attend and assess the situation and if they are in any fear, to back off then call the police and we would attend.”

Sgt Stobbs said he then called one of the paramedics saying: “I explained that there was a protocol in place and said ‘are you going to give me any information?’ because at that moment all he was requesting was medical assistance and ‘if this changes then phone me back’.

Despite attempts to resuscitate him by paramedics, Mr Powney was later declared dead.

The inquest is expected to last until Friday.