‘Genius’ Balcombe teacher died despite visit to GP surgery

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An inspirational and much-loved teacher died suddenly at home after a nurse ‘failed’ to understand how ill he was.

Jon Fielder, 60, of Mill Lane, Balcombe, was head of music and a teacher at Warden Park. He died at home on February 14, from bronchopneumonia, which was never diagnosed.

An inquest into his death, held on November 12, heard Mr Fielder had become unwell and taken time a few days off work before he died.

He booked an appointment with a nurse at Ouse Valley surgery in Handcross, on February 12, complaining of chest pain and a bad cough but was diagnosed with a mouth infection.

However, his condition deteriorated and he returned the next day to see the same nurse, with wife Maggie Kear, who said she did not see the nurse record his observations.

“He had been coughing a great deal,” said Margaret.

“His breathing was very shallow. He was not one to make a huge fuss. She said you must go home and rest and take over the counter medication.”

Bridget Dolan, assistant deputy coroner, said it was the job of a nurse practitioner to explore all the symptoms.

“There is a dispute about what observations were done that day, particularly respiratory rates and pulse,” she said.

“It is not in dispute that he said at the appointment that he was more short of breath.

“The nurse said she didn’t understand that to mean that he was shorter of breath than before. I find that to be an unreasonable conclusion.

Expert witness Dr Neil Hedger said Mr Fielder would probably have had an increased heart rate and low blood pressure.

He said if the pneumonia was identified and treated Mr Fielder may have had an ‘increased chance of survival’.

Carol Wroblewski, nurse practitioner at the surgery, said she did do the observations but did not record them.

“I accept that my notes are of a poor standard,” she said.

“I do not recall whether I was disturbed at the end of the consultation.”

Samantha Boobier, nurse practitioner and expert witness said the failure to record observations at the second appointment was a ‘significant shortfall’.

She added: “If someone who is normally fit and well tells me ‘I’m more short of breath’, that needs to be explained.”

Recording a conclusion of natural causes, Ms Dolan told the inquest she ‘did not accept’ Ms Wroblewski’s account but could not find neglect contributed to Mr Fielder’s death.

“The nurse failed to understand how ill Jon was,” she told the inquest.

“Had treatment been instated it would have increased his chances of survival but is does not mean that he would have survived.”

Ms Dolan said Mr Fielder’s death was a ‘great loss’ to many people, shown by the hundreds who attended his funeral. Jon Fielder wrote music for orchestras, BBC television, had written musicals and played in a number of plans.

Mrs Kear, who had lived in Balcombe with Jon for 35 years, said he always encourage people to join in. She said people had described him as a ‘genius’ for his work.

“He was a talented teacher,” she added. “He was a brilliant man.”

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