A man was pronounced dead by ambulance crews – but later found to be breathing by an undertaker, it emerged today.
The unnamed patient was seen by paramedics who ran a series of checks before saying he was dead and the body taken to a morgue.
But when he was seen by an undertaker he discovered the man was still breathing – and he later made a full recovery.
The bizarre incident in 2007 was published in a three year report by the South Western Ambulance Service and released under the Freedom of Information Act.
It detailed 62 Serious Untoward Incidents (SUIs) – when a patient, member of staff or the public suffers serious injury, harm or unexpected death during a call out.
They can occur on health service premises, premises where health care is provided and where actions of health staff are ”likely to cause public concern”.
The report found 23 incidents were blamed on equipment failure and 34 on human error, including nine cases of wrong diagnosis.
During one SUI in 2008 a patient with severe chest pains was left to walk unaided up stairs before dying.
Footage from CCTV cameras showed the ambulance crew carrying out no checks on the patient as he walked unaided up two flights of steps.
Dr Andy Smith, medical director of the service which covers Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, said SUIs were a ”very small proportion” of incidents attended.
He said: ”When you look at these incidents, it works out at roughly less than three per 100,000 call-outs.
”The service has a culture of openness and staff are encouraged to report any incidents immediately so we can investigate and learn lessons.”
Alan Lofthouse, from the union Unison, added that crews were open when things went wrong.
He said: ”We’re open to scrutiny from the public, we are all professional and we are all accountable.”