Man with a history of aggression towards emergency services died of natural causes, inquest jury concludes

Sunderland Coroner's Court at Sunderland Civic Centre.
Sunderland Coroner's Court at Sunderland Civic Centre.

Ambulance chiefs say they will review procedures after the death of a man in which a crew refused to attend his home without police back-up.

An inquest jury has determined that Darren Powney, who had a history of aggression against emergency services, died of natural causes.

Paramedics from North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) were told to attend his home in Shields Place, Houghton, after he complained of chest pain and breathlessness, on December 28.

But due to a number of ‘warning markers’ on his record, the crew refused to attend without police.

The delivery driver, 37, called 999 at 6.52am, and the crew rang him back at 7.03am, with no answer.

Pathologist Dr Mark Egan said he was probably already dead at this point.

This is heart-breaking for us – Darren was denied his basic human rights to medical intervention due to his mental health

Christine Powney

The inquest heard a protocol introduced in August last year, stipulates that ambulance crews should attend all calls, and only request back-up when on scene if there is a specific threat.

Senior Coroner Derek Winter heard that after several discussions between the crew and the police, they arrived at Mr Powney’s home at 8.14am. He was unresponsive and had no pulse. After 31 minutes of ‘advanced life support’, he was pronounced dead.

The post mortem revealed he died from a pulmonary embolis.

The condition has a 65% mortality rate. However, Powney’s weight and other issues, would have significantly increased this figure.

Mr Winter said: “There is no evidence that a more timely arrival of the ambulance crew would have caused any other outcome.”

His mother Christine said: “This is heartbreaking for us. Darren was denied his basic human rights to medical intervention due to his mental health.”

Mr Winter said he would write to NEAS to ensure lessons be learned and would copy in other authorities.

“For Darren it would have made no difference, but for somebody else it might,” he added.

Head of risk at NEAS, Alan Gallagher, said: “This is a tragic incident and we offer our sincerest condolences to the family.

“As a responsible employer, we take every precaution possible to ensure that our staff are safe whilst at work and work closely with police colleagues to respond to addresses where there may be a risk posed to staff.

“As a result of this incident, we have reviewed the circumstances of the case in detail to identify any learning for our service in the future and made changes to our processes for risk assessments and joint working with the police.

“Following the inquest we will continue to work with the police in developing procedures that do not delay getting treatment to patients and support staff working in challenging environments.”