A coroner is to write to NHS Norfolk and Waveney to emphasise the importance of surgeries having back-up plans should their telephone systems fail.

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Suffolk coroner Peter Dean is writing to the primary care trust after Beccles Medical Centre was left without its incoming phone line for more than 24 hours in July last year, and on the same day a 77-year-old patient from Worlingham died.

Dr Dean said that the medical centre were not at fault for the woman’s death, which was of natural causes, but said it was important that plans were in place when there were any problems at surgeries.

An inquest in Lowestoft yesterday heard that the medical centre had reported the faulty line to BT at around 8.30am on July 20, 2011, and had calls diverted to a mobile phone that became overwhelmed with 54 voicemails in just one hour.

One of those trying to contact the medical centre that day was Alexander Jouan, who was concerned about his mother, Simonne Jouan, of Samford Court, Worlingham.

An appointment was eventually booked for the 77-year-old retired chambermaid for 6pm, but when Mr Jouan returned from work, he found his mother dead.

Dr Dean said: “Clearly it was very distressing for family members that they were unable to get through and later discovered Mrs Jouan deceased.

“However, we can’t know and can’t ascertain whether there would have been a different outcome if there was early healthcare contact for Simonne Jouan.”

He recorded a natural death from heart problems related to lung disease, but said that he would be writing to Bob Purser, NHS Norfolk and Waveney lead manager for primary care, to remind surgeries of the need to have robust telephone systems and plans in place if there was a fault on the line.

The line was restored by 11am the next day, and the medical centre has now upgraded its contract with BT guaranteeing a six-hour reply at any time.

Speaking after the inquest, Lyn Bird-Jouan, the separated wife of Mr Jouan, said: “I am happy that something positive has come out of this in terms of sorting the telephone systems, as I did not want that to happen to anyone else.”

•Alexander Jouan died on August 12 this year from health complications relating to alcoholism.

Dr Dean also conducted the inquest before that of Mrs Jouan, but he said the deaths were unrelated.

Mr Jouan was found dead at his home in Barsham Hill, Barsham, two days after returning from a holiday.

Dr Dean recorded that the 53-year-old surveyor had suffered from an acute gastric ulceration and haemorrhage brought on by chronic alcoholism.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Bird-Jouan said: “He was a lovely man and very caring. It is very sad he had these issues and could not really get through them.

“He never really got over the death of his mother.”

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