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Kingsley Burrell inquest: Ambulance crew 'inexperienced'

INQUEST: Kingsley Burrell, a 29-year-old trainee security guard, died following contact with police and NHS staff in 2011

THE TWO-man ambulance crew who picked up Kingsley Burrell to transfer him from one Birmingham mental unit to another via A&E told his inquest that they were both quite inexperienced.

Emergency medical technician Stuart McDonald-Booth, a rank below a paramedic, had been qualified for only 12 weeks, and trainee ambulance technician David Purslow was at the start of working an obligatory 750 hours of practice in order to be qualified.

The inquest heard how when a patient like Kingsley had been sedated it was considered best practice that a nurse, doctor or paramedic would travel with them in an ambulance.

In hindsight, Mr Purslow, who travelled with Kingsley in the back of the ambulance, said he did see the need for a paramedic.

However, newly qualified Mr McDonald-Booth, who drove the ambulance, said his management would probably have told him to “like it or lump it” if they had requested paramedic help.

The inquest, now in its third week, heard how Kingsley, handcuffed and in leg restraints, was taken from Mary Seacole House on blue lights to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s A&E unit for treatment to a minor head wound. The ambulance crew then drove him to a seclusion room at the nearby Oleaster Unit.

Kingsley died in March 2011 following contact with four police officers and six NHS staff. Last year the Crown Prosecution Service said there was “insufficient evidence” to charge anyone with his death.

Both ambulance men struggled at times to remember details of events and gave different versions of what they had written in earlier statements given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the NHS.

Mr McDonald-Booth, who was reminded by coroner Louise Hunt more than once that he was here to assist the court and not to be argumentative, said he felt Kingsley was possibly suffering from excited delirium, which he said he realised could lead to cardiac arrest. When asked if he had passed his concerns to anyone else, he said no.

He said he could not recall a sheet or blanket being put over Kingsley to stop him spitting while he was in an A& E cubicle because he said he was not present in the cubicle when a doctor put a stitch in his head wound.

Ms Hunt asked: “Why are you saying that you were not in the cubicle, when in an earlier statement you said you took an active role? You said you were holding Kingsley’s hands and he kept digging his nails into you. You said he was saying: ‘They’re going to kill me.’”

On leaving A&E, Mr McDonald-Booth said Kingsley was on his back, but when asked to look at photographs, he agreed with the coroner that Kingsley appeared to be on his front with a covering over his head.

Ms Hunt said: “Why did you not say ‘let’s take this cover off?”, but Mr McDonald-Booth said he did not recall saying anything.

Neither ambulance worker could recall a police officer, travelling with them, reporting that Kingsley said he could not breathe in the ambulance on his way to the Oleaster Unit. And earlier neither of them could recall Todd Nyamhunga, a deputy ward manager from Mary Seacole House, asking to travel with his patient Kingsley in the back of the ambulance.

Mr McDonald-Booth, who had worked previously as a warrant officer with West Midlands Police, said staff at the Oleaster unit, “were always quite rude” adding that “they treated us like taxis.”

Karon Monaghan QC, representing the mothers of Kingsley’s children, who had asked Mr McDonald-Booth why he had referred to Kingsley as ‘a nutter’ said: “You could have treated yourself like a taxi since you do not seem to have done much about medical care.”

Ms Monaghan asked him about his criticisms of the local media in earlier statements.

He had mentioned The Voice, referred to in court as ‘The Black Voice’, was wrongly responsible for allegedly claiming that there was something rotten at the core of West Midlands Police.

She asked if he applied the racial stereotype of “mad, bad, black and dangerous” to Kingsley. But he replied that he had not even heard of that expression.

Ms Monaghan asked David Purslow why he did not use disposable spit masks and goggles that are part of normal ambulance kit, but he said he did not feel it was appropriate to leave Kingsley while in A&E.

In earlier statements, Mr Purslow had stated he had loosely draped “an extremely thin sheet” over Kingsley as he lay on his side, but he later changed his mind, saying it was more likely a blanket.

When asked by Ms Monaghan if there had been a risk of Kingsley “re-breathing” his own carbon dioxide with a tent-like sheet draped over him, Mr Purslow said he kept checking him regularly, making sure there was no sign of cyanosis - an abnormal blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes.

Ms Monaghan asked him if “alarm bells” had not rung in his head when Kingsley’s respiratory rate fell from 14 to 12 when he was coming out of sedation, when surely it should have been the reverse.

She asked is he knew the risks of respiratory depression following sedation, coupled with being in restraint for two hours, to which he replied yes.

“When his pulse rate increased, did that not ring alarm bells?” she asked, but he said no.

Mr Purslow was asked if there was a covering still over Kingsley’s head when he was finally put alone in the seclusion room on Caffra Ward, but Mr Purslow said he could not remember.

The case continues.

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