Police slammed after Alzheimer’s man, 84, is handcuffed in ambulance on way to hospital
Exclusive by Matthew Davis
July 04, 2012
An 84-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer was handcuffed by police as he was being taken to hospital in an ambulance.
Frail Alan Bailey had been strapped to a stretcher in the vehicle to restrain him on the way there. But when he became agitated and tried to escape a police officer who had been called in to help handcuffed him.
Mr Bailey was taken to Tameside General Hospital and later transferred to a health care unit, where he died weeks later after an unconnected fall. Now the coroner at an inquest into his death has slammed the handcuffing of the retired design engineer, and said it ‘beggars belief’.
The inquest heard that Mr Bailey had been assessed by psychiatrists and social workers at his home in Rushfield Road, Cheadle Hulme, after his physical condition deteriorated.
The health workers had been due to meet Mr Bailey’s daughter, Sandra Coombes, at his home on March 4 last year to discuss his situation. But the meeting was moved forward by 24 hours and Mrs Coombes was unable to attend.
The health workers decided Mr Bailey should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act without Mrs Coombes being present and called police to help escort Mr Bailey to the ambulance, the hearing at Stockport Coroners court was told.
Pc Alan Twentyman told the inquest how he had restrained Mr Bailey when he became agitated and put him in handcuffs.
The officer said he had acted to stop Mr Bailey undoing the straps on the stretcher. But coroner John Pollard slammed the handcuffing of Mr Bailey.
He said he would write to GMP chief constable Peter Fahy over the training of officers in dealing with mental health patients and, particularly, the use of handcuffs.
Mr Bailey remained at Tameside General for six days before the mental health order was revoked and he was taken to the Meadows Hospital in Offerton, which specialises in mental health care.
At the Meadows, he broke his hip during a fall and was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital, where he died on April 30 2011.
Mr Pollard recorded a verdict of accidental death. He said he will also write to Pennine NHS Care over their treatment of Mr Bailey.
After the hearing, Det Chief Insp Koran Sellars said: “Handcuffs were used to prevent Mr Bailey harming himself, the police officer, medical staff in the ambulance and members of the public on the road.
“Due to Mr Bailey’s demeanour and age, attempts at physically restraining him may have led to Mr Bailey sustaining serious injuries, therefore handcuffs were deemed the safest and most reasonable option in the circumstances.”
Henry Ticehurst, medical director for Pennine Care said: “Arrangements were in place to assess Mr Bailey with his daughter present but due to a rapid deterioration in his health, the assessment was conducted earlier to prevent further harm.
“The Meadows is a specialist mental health unit providing care and treatment for older people suffering with mental health issues and as such, was an appropriate place for Mr Bailey to receive the care he needed.”
Daughter: Handcuffing my dad was unbelievable
Mr Bailey’s daughter Sandra Coombes criticised the use of handcuffs as ‘unbelievable’.
Speaking after the verdict, Mrs Coombes, she said her father’s weight had plummeted to seven stone by March last year.
She said: “I was particularly upset to hear the manner in which a frail elderly man was handcuffed and held by straps to restrain him in an ambulance to hospital.
“Not only the excessive use of force, but to send a policeman to accompany him was unbelievable.”
Paying tribute to her dad, she added: “My dad survived the bombing of his home during World War II, he worked from 1940, aged 14, to 1986.
“He was intelligent, kind, honest, and he loved to design and make things for people and relished the challenge of solving complex design and engineering problems. He was valued and treasured by his family.”
Coroner: ‘ … This is totally ridiculous, officer’
Coroner John Pollard said the use of handcuffs by an officer to restrain Mr Bailey ‘beggars belief’.
He also described the decision to section Mr Bailey without his daughter being present as ‘ill considered’ and said he would write to Pennine NHS Care for the decision to ‘deprive’ Mr Bailey of his liberty by keeping him at the Meadows, where ‘he was not free to leave’.
After Pc Alan Twentyman told the inquest he had used handcuffs, Mr Pollard said: “This is totally ridiculous officer, it beggars belief.”
Criticising Mr Bailey’s care, Mr Pollard said: “Mr Bailey was an elderly, frail and frightened man with little understanding of the world around him and what would happen to him.
“He was strapped to a bed and tried to slip his legs out of the straps and rush to escape the back of the moving ambulance, the situation was so difficult for the police officer he had to be further restrained by applying handcuffs.
“This was an elderly man who was being taken to hospital because he had allowed his physical condition to deteriorate dramatically.”
Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said; “We obviously respect the Coroner’s judgement and will deal with the issues that he raises in his letter to the force. This case involved an 84-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and we agree with the man’s family that it was inappropriate for the police to be called to restrain the patient. This is a medical issue and not a police issue.
“Medical staff receive extensive training to deal with patients in this sort of situation and to recognise warning signs. There is no way we can replicate this level of training. Basically I do not want to have police officers trying to restrain elderly people in medical situations” “We are presently negotiating a new protocol with the NHS on police being called to deal with mental health issues. Operational officers report that an increasing amount of their time is being taken up in being called to mental health institutions and having to wait with patients for medical assessments to be made. In the past officers have also been asked to provide secure transport for patients which is outside existing agreements. “A core part of the police role is to help those in distress and to intervene in circumstances where lawful use of force is required to detain people in violent situations. We have huge sympathy for NHS staff and the difficult job they do but we are concerned that we are being called in inappropriately and in situations where the presence of a uniformed police officer may not necessarily help the situation. We must not forget that at the heart of this is a vulnerable patient going through a very distressing situation that needs to be carefully cared for.”
Greater Manchester Police say the police officer involved is not being investigated.Copy: Manchester Evening News :-http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1582565_police-slammed-after-alzheimers-man-84-is-handcuffed-in-ambulance-on-way-to-hospital