AN ELDERLY patient at Basingstoke hospital fell to his death from a window just days after he was admitted to hospital following a drug overdose.
North East Hampshire coroner Andrew Bradley heard how 76-year-old Bob Thompstone was fatally injured when he landed on the roof of the hospital canteen.
Mr Thompstone was airlifted to hospital after he was found slumped against the steering wheel of a car parked in a country lane in Hawkley, near Alton, around lunchtime on Friday, November 30, 2012.
The inquest heard the pensioner was initially admitted to the intensive care unit at the hospital but was transferred from the E1 general ward at 5pm on Sunday, December 2.
The hearing at Alton Magis-trates’ Court was told that Mr Thompstone wandered from the ward twice during the night, only to be brought back, before walking away a third time just after 6am on Monday, December 3.
Armelina Vergara, the staff nurse observing Mr Thompstone that night, said she first realised he had gone missing for a third time when she was doing a drug round at 6.30am.
She told the inquest: “I saw Mr Thompstone standing by the nurses’ station. The next time I looked, he had gone.”
She told the inquest she spent 30 minutes searching the hospital grounds for Mr Thomp-stone, and when she could not find him, she reported him missing and called the police.
Miss Vergara said: “I went home at 8.40am, and I received a call at 10am from a staff nurse. She told me the patient had been found, and had killed himself.”
Mr Bradley told Miss Vergara that she did not have to answer any questions that might incriminate her further because her “conduct had been brought into question”.
But she told the inquest it was unfair to suggest she should have filled in a risk assessment form after Mr Thompstone went missing the first time, when he was seen by a security guard trying to leave the hospital’s front entrance.
Miss Vergara said she assessed the patient as being calm but muddled at the time and did not fill out the form, but did tell other staff what had happened.
She said: “I talked to the patient to gather as much information as I could, but he was being sweet and so calm. I was satisfied that he would comply with me and stay in his bed.”
Annette Barrow, a clinical nurse who was working on the F1 stroke ward, told the inquest that she came out of her office at 9.20am on December 3 and saw a group of staff from E1 talking. She said they looked worried. One member of the group told Ms Barrow that a patient was missing on E1 and a window was open.
The group went to the window next to a stairwell, and Ms Barrow said: “We saw a chair, the window was open, and the chair was under the window.”
She said the window was just above waist height if you stood on the chair, and the chair was there because it was used by physiotherapy patients to rest. The group went to a side room in F1, which is adjacent to E1, and looked out of the window.
Ms Barrow said: “At first, I couldn’t see anything. We looked at the roof of the canteen, and I could see a body.”
The inquest heard that Mr Thompstone, from Selborne, near Alton, had a history of depression, but had not taken anti-depressants for a year.
His son, Robert Thompstone, told the inquest he seemed fine when he saw his dad three weeks before he took the overdose.
The family, represented by a lawyer at the inquest, did have some concerns about the side-effects from painkillers prescribed by Mr Thompstone’s GP for neck pain he was suffering.
Mr Thompstone’s son said: “It (the overdose) was a total shock, and it still is. None of us can understand it.”
He said he received a call from his mother on December 3 to say his father had gone missing from the hospital. He thought his father might try to return home, but later received a call to say that his body had been found in the hospital grounds.
Also giving evidence yesterday was Katherine Walker, an anaesthetic registrar who agreed to transfer Mr Thompstone from intensive care to the general ward.
She said he had been confused about why he was in hospital, but she thought he was healthy enough to be discharged to the medical ward, where a referral could be made to a mental health crisis team.
Dr Walker told the inquest: “Having reflected on my practice, and after this tragic case, in future I will make a referral before discharging a patient from intensive care.”
But Peter Reide, a consultant and Dr Walker’s senior colleague, who had overall responsibility for the discharge, said the decision to discharge before a referral was made was correct because Mr Thompstone had made no attempt to harm himself while in intensive care.
The inquest is expected to finish today.