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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Trusts fined over widow's death
Morfa day unit, Barry Hospital
Mrs Purnell was being taken home from this day unit at Barry Hospital
Two NHS trusts have been fined a total of 27,500 over the death of a 93-year-old woman, dropped off at the wrong house by an ambulance crew.

Mary Purnell fell after being left at a house in Dinas Powys, near Cardiff. She died weeks later in hospital.

The Welsh Ambulance Service was fined 20,000 and Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust 7,500 at Cardiff Crown Court after admitting a failure of duty of care.

The trusts have "apologised unreservedly" to Mrs Purnell's family.

The hearing heard how the grandmother, who suffered dementia and chronic lymphatic leukaemia, required constant care.

She regularly attended a day unit at Barry Hospital in south Wales, operated for elderly and mentally infirm clients and would be taken home by an ambulance crew at the end of each day.

But on 20 August 2003, instead of being taken back to her home in Penarth, she was dropped off at the empty house of another patient in nearby Dinas Powys five miles away.

'Tragic incident'

She was left alone in the house by the ambulance crew, who found a door key under the doormat and let her in.

In her effort to escape, Mrs Purnell broke a leg and died five weeks later in hospital from bronchial pneumonia and leukaemia,

The judge heard how the ambulance crew working that day were unfamiliar with the clients and their addresses.

At an earlier hearing, a court heard how other passengers in the ambulance protested but the crew carried on regardless.

The error came to light some hours later and Mrs Purnell was found injured, having fallen in the garden of the house.

Mrs Purnell's welcomed the sentencing and describing the period since her death as "a terrible and deeply upsetting time."

"This was a tragic incident that should never have happened," they said.

'Horrendous ordeal'

"They hope that lessons have now been learnt so that others will not have to go through such a horrendous ordeal.

"The family are grateful that both trusts gave unreserved public and private apologies and welcome the news that procedures are now in place so that this never happens again and that no other family will have to suffer the devastation that Mrs Purnell's family have suffered.

"The family appreciated the way the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust praised the dignified way in which they had conducted themselves throughout their three year ordeal."

Following the sentencing, Cardiff and Vales NHS Trust issued a statement.

"Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust would like to offer its sincere condolences to Mrs Purnell's family," said a spokesman.

"We would like to reassure the family and other people who use our healthcare services that lessons have been learnt from this incident and that we have reviewed and improved our systems."


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