Hit comedy scriptwriter dies following fall while ‘unsupervised’ at care home
A comedy writer behind hit shows such as On The Buses and The Rag Trade who suffered from dementia could have been left to wander a care home for almost an hour before falling down a staircase to his death, an inquest heard.
Ronnie Wolfe, half of writing partnership “the other two Ronnies” with Ronnie Chesney, had been left alone by staff at Eastside House Residential Care Home, in Temple Fortune, to calm down after an angry outburst on December 15, at 12.30pm.
But the 89-year-old, whose ITV sitcom On The Buses had 16million viewers tuning in at the height of its popularity, was allowed to walk around the self-styled “exclusive and luxury” home for at least half an hour before staff heard a “thump”.
He was found sprawled at the foot of the rear stairs with a serious head injury and emergency services were called at 1.23pm, North London Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday.
Mr Wolfe, from Grosvenor Gardens, Temple Fortune, was rushed to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, but surgeons said the damage to the brain had been too severe and they could not operate.
He died three days later on December 18.
No risk assessment had been carried out when Mr Wolfe arrived at the care home three days before, but the home has since changed its policies.
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Coroner Andrew Walker said: “It’s looking like he fell because of lack of supervision. It’s looking like it was recognised that he needed that supervision, but at lunchtime there was a shortage of staff and as a result he was left by himself.”
Mr Walker insisted this was not a ruling.
He adjourned the hearing after conflicting evidence emerged about how long the scriptwriter was allowed to wander free from supervision.
More witnesses will be called in an effort to settle the dispute.
Mr Walker said: “What happened in that period of time? That’s a big long period of time even if we are talking about 1.10pm.”
The coroner called for ambulance logs and a report from the Health and Safety Executive about the rear stairs to be provided before the inquest could continue.
Mr Walker is also considering calling a CQC inspector to assess Eastside’s standards of care.
Staff from the care home admitted that Mr Wolfe would normally have been helped to navigate the stairwells at the respite home in Eastside Road.
But carers said the lunch rush and Mr Wolfe’s “non-compliant” behaviour meant he was left by himself to calm down.
The inquest was adjourned to continue at a later date.