01.04.19

Hospital staff’s failings ‘caused or significantly contributed’ to student’s death because they thought he was drunk

A university student with a “spectacular” head injury died after doctors failed to spot his injury because they assumed he was unconscious because he was drunk, a coroner has found.

An inquest found that the death of 22-year-old Alex Green was “contributed to by neglect” from hospital staff.

Green, an economics student at the University of Bath, was found at a city bus stop in the early hours of 30 September 2017 and was taken to the Royal United Hospital (RUH).

The inquest heard that paramedics and doctors at the Bath hospital both failed to diagnose the “spectacular” internal injury, and also criticised his care after he wasn’t seen for three hours then not managed properly after falling from his hospital bed.

The injury, which included a fractured skull, was only spotted when Green suffered a respiratory arrest 10 hours after being admitted to the hospital. He died three days later after being transferred to Southmead hospital in Bristol.

The senior coroner, Maria Voisin, concluded: “A number of hospital staff failures caused or significantly contributed to Alex's death.”

She identified five failings with Green’s care such as the fact he wasn’t seen by a doctor for three hours despite having a reduced Glasgow Coma Scale score, which is a way of assessing someone’s consciousness.

Voisin said: “There was an assumption by everyone managing Alex that he had been intoxicated when in fact, he had a significant head injury.”

The inquest heard that after both a paramedic and a doctor had concluded the student’s condition was due to alcohol, Green fell from his hospital bed but wasn’t examined.

Voisin said there was a “gross failure to provide basic medical attention which Alex obviously needed.”

She called the delay in Green’s diagnosis and transfer effectively meant his treatment was “futile.”

The five-day inquest concluded that the patient should have undergone neurological tests after arriving at the RUH hospital, and neurosurgeon James Palmer told the hearing that his life could have been saved if a CT scan had been carried out earlier.

The Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS FT’s medical director Bernie Marden offered the trust’s sincere sympathy and apologies to Green’s family and friends.

He stated: “Following this tragic incident in 2017, we carried out an investigation and shared the findings with Alex's family and the coroner. We will now reflect on the coroner's findings and act on the further learning opportunities identified.”

 Image credit - PA

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