Care home told to improve after death of On The Buses writer Ronnie Wolfe

A coroner has told a care home to improve its safety arrangements after the death of a celebrated comedy writer who died after falling down a flight of stairs at the home last year.

Ronnie Wolfe, who penned hit shows such as On The Buses and The Rag Trade with co-writer Ron Chesney, had only been living at Eastside House Residential Care Home in Temple Fortune for two days when he had the fall on December 15.

The 89-year-old, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, sustained a serious head injury and died in hospital three days later.

The inquest into Mr Wolfe’s death, part heard in July and adjourned to hear evidence from new witnesses, resumed at North London Coroner’s Court last Tuesday.

The court was told Mr Wolfe, from Grosvenor Gardens, Temple Fortune, was “agitated” and “distressed” on the day, refusing to have a bath and take his medicine in the morning.

When lunch was due to be served at the care home at 12.30pm, Mr Wolfe refused to eat and left the residents’ lounge to sit in the hallway beside the entrance to the home.

Care home staff were told to leave Mr Wolfe alone to allow him to “calm down”, the court heard, but less than half an hour later, Mr Wolfe was found lying at the foot of the rear staircase at the other side of the building after wandering off unsupervised.

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Family friend Tamara Rabin was critical of the staircase which Mr Wolfe had been climbing at the time of the fall, pointing to a gap in its handrail covering a distance of “seven or eight steps”.

She added: “Part of the family’s concern is that the same thing could happen again to another family. We feel all this could have been avoided if there had been proper supervision.”

Mr Wolfe’s wife Rose told the court: “He was in a place that he didn’t want to be in, he would much rather have been at home. Perhaps sitting by the front door was an indication of ‘I don’t want to be here, I want to be at home’.”

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Andrew Walker said: “It seems clear that [Mr Wolfe] was left alone for a period of time, it’s also clear he was identified as a person who needed assistance climbing up and down the stairs.”

Mr Walker accepted that a health and safety assessment of the staircase found no defects which required changes by law.

But he took the rare step of making a Rule 43 report, in which a coroner recommends actions to prevent future deaths.

Mr Walker recommended that the care home needed to improve its risk assessment for each patient and improve supervision of patients who are new on the ward to help them “acclimatise”.

He paid tribute to Mr Wolfe’s “huge contribution to broadcasting” describing him as “hugely intelligent and funny”.