Family of ambulance fall artist in action call

The accident happened at Borders General Hospital. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The accident happened at Borders General Hospital. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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THE family of an artist who died after falling from an ambulance while being dropped off at a hospital have called for measures to be put in place to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

Fiona Barber, 71, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, was descending the steps of the vehicle backwards to attend a routine appointment when she lost her grip, falling on top of a patient transport carer guiding her and striking the back of her head on the ground.

The accident happened at Borders General Hospital, near Melrose, Roxburghshire, on 21 December 2009, and the mother of two, who lived at Lindean near Selkirk, lost consciousness soon after and died at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh two weeks later.

More than five years on, a fatal accident inquiry at Selkirk Sheriff Court finally opened yesterday with Mrs Barber’s son Jonathan urging strong recommendations be put in place and describing it as a “preventable accident”.

He explained that his father Joe, who was Mrs Barber’s carer, never recovered from what happened and died a year and ten days later.

Mr Barber, who was the first witness to be called, said his mother was suffering from the effects of a “horrible disease” but he had never witnessed her fall.

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He said she had various joints replaced and he had been told of her suffering a severe fall at Kelso Races in 2006.

Asked what outcome he was looking for from the inquiry, Mr Barber said: “We were only told there was not going to be a prosecution in June last year. The family have waited a very long time for this and want to see some effective recommendations.

“It is the family view this was a very preventable accident. It really devastated the whole family.

“My father took it really badly and the stress was enormous on him and he died of cancer a year and ten days after. He never really recovered from it and spent most of the year trying to understand what happened.

“We want to find out why it occurred and would like to see material and effective recommendations in patients’ handling both in the Scottish Ambulance Service and Borders General Hospital so that vulnerable patients are spared this sort of thing happening again.”

Mr Barber said his mother had been a drawing student and a commercial artist before affected by arthritis.

The inquiry continues.

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