Somerset ambulance firm shut down after Norfolk woman died on hard shoulder of M11

Peggy Copeman died while being transferred to Norfolk from Somerset in an ambulance.

A private ambulance firm based in Somerset has been permanently shut down following the death of an 81-year-old woman who died "whilst sat between" two of its workers.

Peggy Copeman was sent 200 miles away from home for treatment at Cygnet Hospital - a psychiatric hospital in Taunton - when there were no suitable beds at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust in December 2019.

Four days later, when a bed closer to home had been found, Mrs Copeman was driven back in a private ambulance deployed by Premier Rescue Ambulance Service Limited.

On the way to Norfolk she started to have breathing difficulties and died on the hard shoulder of the M11.

Mrs Copeman's daughter described her as "a gentle, loving and caring person".

At an inquest into her death, held in June 2021, the coroner said Premier Rescue Ambulance Service failed to provide "prompt medical attention" which contributed to Mrs Copeman's death.

The inquest heard Mrs Copeman had been sat between two ambulance workers who "did not recognise she was in respiratory distress and/or cardiac arrest" and that she had "effectively died whilst sat between them".

In June 2021 the Care Quality Commission took action to "urgently suspend" Premier Rescue Ambulance Service after what they described as "serious concerns" came to light.

The CQC has now cancelled the registration of the service - as of December 29 - following an inspection in September which saw the service rated inadequate overall. 

CQC’s head of inspection for hospitals Cath Campbell said: “The Care Quality Commission has taken enforcement action to cancel the registration of Premier Mental Health Patient Transport in Taunton following an inspection in September 2021.

"The provider is no longer legally allowed to carry out regulated activities.”

Premier Rescue Ambulance Service has been contacted for comment.