Croydon man, 23, found on park bench died from Covid after eight-hour wait for help

Coroner Jonathan Landau called for national police, ambulance and NHS guidance to be revised in light of the case to prevent future deaths.

A 23-year-old man who was so ill with Covid he could hardly speak was found on a park bench and died after an eight-hour wait for help.

Richard Boateng first called his GP surgery when he fell ill, as the pandemic was taking hold last March.

But when he phoned the practice in Croydon, on March 30 last year, he was “very unwell” and only spoke to a receptionist who offered a routine appointment.

When a GP called him back the next morning, Mr Boateng was so ill he could not complete his sentences or give his full name.

As a result, the doctor called an ambulance, but when paramedics arrived Mr Boateng was not at home and the medics told his sister to call the police.

Officers found Mr Boateng on a park bench near his home in Croydon at around 4pm and when police called for a second ambulance, none were immediately available.

Paramedics were not able to get to Mr Boateng until around 6.20pm as they were swamped with spiralling coronavirus cases.

He was rushed to Croydon University Hospital, but despite doctors attempts to resuscitate him, Mr Boateng died not long after arrival.

At an inquest into his death last month, concerns were raised about why he was only given a routine appointment and that paramedics told Mr Boateng’s sister to call police instead of taking her number and passing it to officers themselves.

Before the pandemic, police could transport a patient to hospital themselves if an ambulance was not available.

But there was no guidance for how officers should do this safely during the height of the outbreak, the inquest heard.

Jonathan Landau, assistant coroner for South London, called for national guidance by the College of Policing, the London Ambulance Service and NHS England to be revised in light of the case to prevent future deaths.

In the report on preventing future deaths, he told the London Ambulance Service it would have been better for the paramedic to take Mr Boateng sister’s number and pass it on to police, adding that guidance to crews needed to be updated.

Mr Landau wrote: “The LAS paramedic advised his sister to call the police.

“The LAS quality manager accepted in evidence [during the inquest] that it would have been better to have taken her number and to pass it on to the police to make contact.

“I was told that national guidance on this issue was published in the summer.

“To date, neither guidance to crews nor to control had been updated to make the LAS guidance clearer to those applying it.”

In a letter to the College of Policing, the coroner said he was worried the guidance for forces around the country may not have up-to-date advice.

Mr Landau said: “Due to the Covid pandemic, no ambulances were available when police attended to Richard.

“The Metropolitan Police Service had a policy that permitted conveying patients to hospital in an emergency if no ambulances were available.

“However, the policy included no practical guidance as to how that could be achieved mitigating the risks. I heard that the Metropolitan Police Service is updating the guidance.

“However, I am concerned that other forces across the country may also lack such practical guidance, which is of particular concern due to the ongoing pandemic and the demands that may continue of ambulance services.”

The Met said its officers’ actions were not criticised during the hearing and that changes have since been made to which officers make the decision whether to transport a patient in a police vehicle.

A spokesman for the force said: “The death of Mr Boateng was a dreadful incident and the thoughts of the Met are with his family and friends.

“In relation to the case of Mr Boateng and if he should be transported in a police vehicle, the decision was dynamic and remained under constant review.

“When it appeared the condition of Mr Boateng was deteriorating and that police transport should be utilised, the officers were informed that an ambulance was being assigned and he was subsequently taken to hospital by ambulance.

“There was no criticism made of the actions of the officers who attended, who clearly explained to the inquest the rationale for their actions at a very difficult situation.

“It must be remembered that police officers are not trained to the standards of paramedics and their vehicles are not designed to transport the ill or injured, nor are police vehicles equipped to deal with serious medical emergencies.

“For these reasons, it is only in exceptional circumstances that a police vehicle should be used.

“In appreciation that these cases require a dynamic risk assessment at the scene, the Met had previously amended their policy so that a duty officer would no longer be the arbiter of whether a police vehicle will be used to transport those ill or injured; it is now for the driver of the police vehicle attending to make the decision.

“A Preventing Further Death report was sent to the College of Policing for national consideration.

“The Met has also decided to explore the practical issues that arise in these cases and what support and guidance can be given to officers dealing with such critical incidents.”

A spokeswoman for the London Ambulance Service said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Boateng.

“We take the coroner’s concerns very seriously and we are currently preparing our response which will be sent to the coroner in due course.”

NHS England has been contact for a response.

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