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Doctor said woman, 84, should be taken to A&E one day before her body was found in ditch

PUBLISHED: 08:06 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:20 22 November 2017

Whitehouse Lane in Attleborough. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Whitehouse Lane in Attleborough. Picture: Sonya Duncan

A doctor had advised that an elderly woman should stay in hospital for her own safety less than a day before her body was found in a ditch.

Joyce Cuzner, of Foxglove Road in Attleborough, was found on Whitehouse Lane in Attleborough on January 21, 2015.

While she lived alone, the 84-year-old had a carer, employed by Sunrise Healthcare, a firm appointed by Norfolk County Council, from 8am to 6pm, and made regular trips to see her husband, who lives at a nearby care home.

At an inquest at Norfolk Coroner’s Court in Norwich on Monday, her carer Dumi Gumpo said she was “agitated” and distressed on January 20.

“She was trying to get out of the window and became very agitated,” he said. “She wanted to go to the care home to see her husband more times than she would normally. I felt that the behaviour was unusual for her.”

After speaking to his manager, who said it could be symptomatic of a urinary infection, he booked an appointment with Dr Peter Read that afternoon.

Briony Ballard, Dr Read’s lawyer, told the inquest that Dr Read said the cause of her behaviour was unclear, and gave him a letter advising that Mrs Cuzner be taken to A&E as a “safe place”, rather than staying alone overnight.

But Mr Gumpo, who began caring for Mrs Cuzner in January 2015, said she refused to go to hospital, and that he did not read the letter as he believed it was to give to hospital staff. He said he did not recall being told that she needed to go to hospital that night.

Instead, he phoned one of her daughters and, when she said she was not available that night, he said they agreed he would take Mrs Cuzner home and that her daughter would come round the next morning to take her to hospital.

“Even after [taking her home],” he told area coroner Yvonne Blake, “I stayed outside the door for 45 minutes just to make sure she was staying in the house.”
But the next morning, he arrived at 8am and could not find Mrs Cuzner. Emergency services were called and she was later found in the ditch.

When asked why he did not phone an ambulance, Mr Gumpo told the court he did not feel he had the authority and could not force her to go against her will.

A pathologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said that her cause of death was “hypothermia due to dementia”.

The inquest continues.

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