A bedbound woman who was found “emaciated, dirty, and dehydrated” died following a 20-hour wait for an ambulance, an inquest heard.

The court was told that Alexis Mary Oxley-Brennan, 72, had spent the last week of her life confined to her bed in her Norwich home after becoming increasingly ill.

Prior to this, she had been awaiting an appointment from the memory clinic at the Julian Hospital following concerns about her short-term memory and hoarding tendencies of stockpiling and hiding soap and toothpaste.

Eastern Daily Press: Outside Norfolk Coroner's Court - Picture: Donna-Louise BishopOutside Norfolk Coroner's Court - Picture: Donna-Louise Bishop (Image: Newsquest)

Assistant coroner Samantha Goward led the hearing into the death at Norfolk Coroner’s Court at County Hall, Norwich, and explained how Mrs Oxley-Brennan received a home visit from her GP on the afternoon of July 25, 2022. 

Her husband, James Oxley-Brennan, had been concerned as she had been unwell for a week.

On arrival, the GP noted that she was confused and dehydrated. He was also concerned for her welfare, describing the house as “cluttered and unclean” with piles of books and newspapers strewn around. 

Before leaving the house, Dr David Greenwood, of St Stephens Gate Medical Practice, arranged for her to be admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and called for an ambulance to take her. 

A call handler from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust advised that there would be a 20-hour wait, due to "significant pressures” on the day. 

Mr Oxley-Brennan was provided with welfare checks via telephone by the Trust while he waited for the ambulance and made his wife comfortable before retiring to bed at around 2am on July 26. 

At 8.22am, Mr Oxley-Brennan called 999 after becoming concerned that his wife had stopped breathing. She was declared dead by paramedics at her home at 8.36am. 

In evidence read out in court, Chris Hewetson, patient safety officer at the Trust, explained that on the day before Mr Oxley-Brennan's death the organisation had declared a serious incident.

He said: "The Trust was under significant pressure at the time. 

"In particular, the staff were experiencing long hand-over waits at the [Norfok and Norwich University] hospital."

He also presented the coroner with evidence of the steps since taken to manage these issues.

The Trust has also sent a letter of apology to Mr Oxley-Brennan following the passing of his wife. 

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Recording a narrative conclusion, Ms Goward said: “She died following aspiration of food contents, leading to bronchopneumonia.  

“It is possible that had there not been a 20-hour wait for an ambulance, then this may have been detected earlier.  

“Mrs Oxley-Brennan, however, was already weak from infection and likely dehydration and malnutrition so it is not possible to say, on the balance of probabilities, that she would have survived.” 

A postmortem noted that she was “severely underweight”, weighing just 40kg (6st 3lbs) at the time of death, and had likely not been eating or drinking “for some time” before she died. 

Mrs Oxley-Brennan, of Albury Walk, Norwich, was born on March 24, 1950.

The inquest into her death took place on Wednesday, March 15. Her husband and sister, Sally Robinson, both attended. 

Her funeral took place at St Andrew's Church in Eaton, near Norwich on Thursday, August 18. Donations for the charity Dementia UK were welcomed.