POLICE were called in after a Rotherham hospital patient’s breathing machine became disconnected, an inquest heard.
Detectives, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the machine manufacturers all investigated after the death of ex-miner Dennis Payling.
The 79-year-old, from Cromer Close, Rawmarsh, was taken to Rotherham District Hospital after suffering a stroke and put on a continuous positive airway pressure machine to help him breathe through a mask.
But the machine was accidentally disturbed while the pensioner was having a bed bath and was disconnected for up to 20 minutes, the Rotherham inquest heard.
Nurse Saria Ramful, who admitted she was unfamiliar with the machine, and health care assistant Anthony Carberry both noticed an object fall from the machine and afterwards the patient’s oxygen saturation levels in his blood began to fall.
Staff nurse Heather Bell, who took over from the pair, admitted she did not “have a clue” what to do with the machine.
The nurse rang physio Katherine Bailey who helped her reconnect the machine over the phone. Mr Payling’s saturation levels rose again and no doctor was called, the inquest heard.
But Mr Payling rapidly deteriorated and died shortly afterwards.
Katherine Bailey said of the piece that had become disconnected: “It seemed a simple solution for them to be reconnected.”
Dr Christopher Knapp who treated Mr Payling said his saturation levels had been satisfactory overnight but there was a significant drop.
But he said the patient was so ill with a chest infection a colleague had been considering withdrawing treatment the day before.
After Mr Payling died on February 21 the police discovered a blow-off valve had been put into the breathing circuit the wrong way round and “an unknown quantity” of oxygen provided to the patient.
Dr Patricia Bain for the hospital trust who carried out its own inquiry said: “There was a period of 15 to 20 minutes where there is some debate as to whether the machine was connected.
“Our understanding is that the machine was providing oxygen throughout the whole of that period.”
She said the hospital had reviewed its procedures and was giving extra training on the management of CPAP machines. Coroner Nicola Mundy adjourned the hearing after being told police reports indicated the machine may have been reconnected earlier than was thought.