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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 19:53 GMT
Inquest to probe 'bed fall' claim
The High Court has ordered a new inquest into the death of a 52-year-old miner after it emerged he may have fallen out of his hospital bed.

Claims that William Tatters, of Blackburn, Lancashire, suffered head injuries after the alleged fall were never probed by the original inquest.

A verdict of natural causes was recorded at the inquest last February.

The former miner had suffered serious lung problems and died in November 2003 at Queen's Park Hospital.

Mr Tatters' long-term partner, Pauline Combe, of Hazel Close, Blackburn, had fought for the inquest to be re-opened.

When vulnerable patients die in hospital after a fall there needs to be a full examination of the circumstances
Lord Justice Gage

She said: "I am extremely relieved that there will now be a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bill's death.

"It has always been a matter of concern that Bill was not in a bed protected by bed rails and that fall was never thoroughly investigated.

"Bill's family hopes that all matters will now be properly considered."

The court was told nursing notes recorded Mr Tatters had died at 1015 GMT on 7 November and a consultant pathologist concluded death had occurred because of breathing difficulties caused by chronic lung disease and heart problems.

Ms Combe had made a witness statement saying her partner had suffered a head injury after falling from his bed 12 hours earlier.

'A little odd'

This was not considered at the inquest.

The Blackburn coroner told the court he did not oppose the inquest being reopened.

Lord Justice Gage said it was "a little odd" that there had not been a fuller investigation into what happened in the hospital.

"Whether the pathologist knew of the fall and was alerted to the possibility of head injuries is unclear," he said.

"There was, as a result, no proper and effective investigation of these matters at the inquest."

After the family investigated, the coroner's office had produced a further report which indicated Mr Tatters had an abnormal breathing pattern before his death which may have been consistent with injuries from a fall.

"When vulnerable patients die in hospital after a fall there needs to be a full examination of the circumstances," the judge added.


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