Three hospitals turned Mary Muldowney away because they had no beds available, she later died of a brain haemorrhage.
In July 2016 Mary Muldowney, 57, was admitted to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill after tests showed she was suffering bleeds on the brain and required immediate surgery.
She was referred to specialist neurosurgical units in Tooting, Brighton and south London, however, they all refused to take her because they had no available beds.
A doctor used a personal connection to get the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, to take her in – even though they officially did not have a free bed for her.
The coroner for inner north London, Mary Hassell, has written to NHS England saying that had she been transferred promptly and received the surgery she needed, Mrs Muldowney would have “probably survived.”
Mrs Hassell continues to say: “in desperation, knowing of the expertise of a former colleague, one of the East Surrey doctors went out of area and rang a consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal London Hospital.”
Mrs Hassell recorded a narrative verdict where she concluded that Mrs Muldowney could have undergone the surgery before an intensive care bed was found.
“If a bed was still unavailable, she could have been transferred to a different hospital, at least having undergone the time-critical [surgery].”
Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, said that a serious patient safety issue had been raised. He added, however, that Simon Mackenzie, chief executive of St George’s, had suggested that Mrs Muldowney “was not deemed… to require immediate life-saving surgery”.
The coroner’s report and letter from Sir Bruce were first reported by Health Service Journal.
A report this week suggests that current bed occupancy levels are at an average of 96 per cent across the county. The recommended maximum is 85 per cent, to ensure patient safety.