James Harrison inquest: Leaving bodies 'common practice'

Ely ambulance station
Image caption The body of James Harrison was left outside Ely ambulance station for more than three hours

Paramedics who left a man's body near bins to avoid working late were were told it was "common practice", an inquest heard.

James Harrison's body was taken to Ely ambulance station in Cambridgeshire but it was moved to a mortuary several hours later.

Mr Harrison, 32, was found dead in the street in Littleport, last September.

An inquest in Chatteris into his death heard that on seven previous occasions crews did not take bodies to hospital.

Coroner William Morris recorded a verdict of accidental death on Mr Harrison as the result of taking a cocktail of prescribed anti-depressants and insomnia medication.

Image caption James Harrison's body was first found outside Littleport fire station

Paramedics David Glenton and Ann-Marie Poole attended the scene of where his body was found at 05:30 BST on 24 September, the inquest in Chatteris heard.

The pair - who were due to finish their night shift at 06:00 BST - said they were happy to transport the body to hospital.

But first responder Dharamendra Narotam suggested to them Mr Harrison's body could be left at the ambulance station and collected by an undertaker later on.

Mr Glenton did not question this decision, and told the inquest: "He made it sound like it was common practice."

The undertaker did not arrive, however, and Mr Harrison's body was not taken to the hospital mortuary until after 08:00 BST.

Image caption The body was removed from near the fire station when police said the death was not suspicious

Paramedic Steve Hibbitt, who investigated the incident, said: "The crew were not familiar with this procedure but were advised it was a normal local practice and several bodies had been left in this way before."

Mr Narotam said he had not seen anything wrong with the approach at the time.

Tracy Nicholls, director of clinical quality at the East of England Ambulance Service, said: "We apologise wholeheartedly to the family for the distress this incident has caused - it should never have happened."

She said the members of staff involved are subject to an ongoing investigation, and an instruction had been sent out to staff to say such a practice was not acceptable.

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