Disabled woman dies in ‘preventable’ hoist fall at Sunderland care home

Care & Support Ltd. Midmoor Road, Pallion, Sunderland.
Care & Support Ltd. Midmoor Road, Pallion, Sunderland.
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A SEVERELY-DISABLED woman died after suffering massive head injuries when she fell from a special hoist at a Sunderland care home.

Anne Rowell Elliott, who had cerebral palsy, was being lifted from her bed in her room at Care and Support Sunderland Limited (CSSL), in Pallion, last year, when the tragedy happened.

An inquest was told staff went into her room on the morning of November 20, to get her ready for a trip to the Metrocentre, where she was going to look at festive decorations in the run-up to Christmas.

As the 63-year-old was being transferred from the bed to her wheelchair by a sling, which was held up by a hoist, she fell, hitting her head on the floor.

Ms Elliott, who also suffered from hydrocephalus – a build-up of fluid on the brain – was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital by ambulance.

Despite the best efforts of doctors she was deemed not well enough to undergo surgery and died five days later.

An inquest into Ms Elliott’s death at Sunderland Coroner’s Court was re-opened yesterday.

Coroner Derek Winter told the hearing that a post-mortem examination carried out by Dr Peter Nigel Cooper on Ms Elliott, found that she had suffered a bleed on the brain because of the fall.

She also broke two of her ribs, as well as bruising to the left side of her face and her left shoulder.

After falling unconscious in hospital, Ms Elliott then developed a chest infection before she died.

Mr Winter said: “Ultimately, Anne died of a blunt head injury.”

The process of Ms Elliott being transferred from her bed into the wheelchair happened on average about four times a day, the hearing was told.

In statements given after the incident, the equipment used was found to be safe and the staff who were helping Mrs Elliott into the wheelchair said all straps were attached properly.

Mechanical engineer Michael Brown, giving evidence at the inquest, said that if all four straps, two for Ms Elliott’s shoulders and two for her thighs, were correctly attached, she would be unable to fall out.

“If you are held by all four straps, you will be balanced,” said Mr Brown, who has carried out reconstructions of the fall.

“The conclusions that we reached were that the equipment was fault-free and in good condition.

“There must have been something that wasn’t quite as per, from the information given to us.

“The carers confirmed that all four straps were left attached.

“My opinion is that the thigh straps were incorrectly attached.

“This was a very unfortunate accident that could have been prevented.”

Sandra Begbie, service manager at CSSL, told the hearing: “Anne had lived at Midmoor Road for nearly 13 years and despite all of her significant health needs, she was very stable.

“Before she died there were no hospital appointments and she was very stable in her condition.”

The inquest is today expected to hear from staff at the home who were with Ms Elliott in her room when the fall happened.

It is expected to last all week.