THE family of a 61-year-old Barrow woman who was incorrectly declared dead by a paramedic said they 'do not blame him' for her death.

The three-day inquest into the death of Christine Lawrenson - who passed away in May 2017 - heard how neighbours saw her through a window lying still on her kitchen floor.

Emergency services attended her address shortly before 5.30pm, with a decision made five minutes later by paramedic Garth Swarbrick to declare the patient as deceased.

Mr Swarbrick told the hearing he had left Miss Lawrenson’s caravan on West Shore Park, Walney, before returning moments later to see no further signs of life.

After paramedics left, police officers then noticed signs of breathing and called for the urgent return of an ambulance.

An error in the way the call was classified, a shortage of ambulances and the incorrect diagnosis led to a 71 minute delay in treatment from the first call being made and the second ambulance arriving. However, the coroner ruled this delay was unlikely to have changed the outcome. Miss Lawrenson died at Furness General Hospital at 8.43pm.

North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has since changed the way it records calls, as well as providing training to those who made mistakes, the coroner was told.

Following the inquest, Miss Lawrenson’s family said: “We understand that the paramedics followed procedure and we do not blame them in any way for what happened. It is reassuring that the procedure has now changed to prevent this happening again.

“The family would like to take this opportunity to thank the police officers involved in this tragic incident, especially the medically trained officers who gave first aid and comforted our mum. It was very touching to hear the care and compassion from the officers involved.”

Mr Swarbrick said a number of factors led to his declaration, such as signs of decomposition presented by odours and fluids surrounding the body, the condition of Miss Lawrenson, neighbours suggesting they had not seen Miss Lawrenson for a number of days, the noise made during the break-in to the locked property and the times he knocked on the doors and windows of the property receiving no response.

The inquest was told Mr Swarbrick had not touched the patient during the examination, but this was not a requirement by NWAS at the time.

A check for signs of breathing will now be mandatory for paramedics - in all cases apart from decapitation - following this death.

Concluding the inquest yesterday, coroner Kirsty Gomersal said: “Lessons have been learnt since Christine’s death across the board, about training being given on clear action changes to NWAS’ diagnosis of death procedure, not just in the county or the north west, but nationally."

After hearing medical evidence, she ruled on the balance of probabilities that Miss Lawrenson fell prior to her death, the cause of the fall unknown.

The coroner said she did not believe the death was the result of medical neglect.

She said: “Neglect is very specific, meaning there has been an impact by the lack of care. I’m not convinced neglect contributed to Christine’s death.”

The coroner agreed the first declaration of death was wrong, but it was an honest and justifiable mistake given the circumstances.

She ruled that the death was the result of natural causes, culminating from alcoholic liver disease.