Cancer patient suffered 'undignified' final hours after station fall, inquest hears

Priscilla Tropp's family call for review of railway station's emergency response protocol, after failure to locate defibrillator or contact police


A cancer patient who died after falling down train station stairs suffered “undignified” treatment in her final hours after failings by “ill-equipped and insufficiently-trained” staff, her family have argued.

Priscilla Tropp, 76, died at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, North London, on November 27 last year.

At an inquest into her death on Tuesday, senior North London coroner Andrew Walker ruled it was a result of the fall she suffered hours earlier at Mill Hill Broadway station, after returning from a hospital appointment in central London.

Mrs Tropp, a member of Edgware United Synagogue, suffered from a rare form of Leukaemia. A post-mortem report found she had suffered a ruptured spleen, internal bleeding and a cardiac arrest.

The coroner’s court heard that Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) staff failed to contact either British Transport Police or a central control office, and were unaware that the station was equipped with a defibrillator.

GTR contended that contacting the police was unnecessary, because it was not a "criminal matter".

Mrs Tropp received treatment at the bottom of the stairway for an hour before being taken to hospital, during which time “hundreds” of passengers passed the scene during rush hour.

Only ten minutes of CCTV footage was recovered, and the names of witnesses were not recorded.

The Tropp family also argued that measures should have been taken to alleviate congestion on the stairway, which led to fellow commuters being “forced to jump over her whilst she was in pain and becoming weaker”.

CCTV footage showed one fellow passenger lifting his bicycle over Mrs Tropp while she received treatment, according to Charlie Sherrard QC, the family's representative and Mrs Tropp's son-in-law.

Giving evidence, Stephen Barkby, a safety business partner at GTR, said that the member of staff who responded to the incident “did not consider at that point that the situation was such that it would cause over-crowding issues”.

He added: “By the time the member of staff approached the incident, Mrs Tropp had been sitting up… and was attended to by an off-duty police officer.”

The inquest also heard that Mrs Tropp suffered another fall on the same stairway in June 2018, although this was not recorded by station staff.

The inquest also heard that provisions were available for a free taxi service to nearby Elstree and Borehamwood station, which has step-free access.

After her death, the Tropp family called for a review into safety procedures at Mill Hill Broadway station – which has since been earmarked for funding under a Government scheme for step-free access.

In a statement after the inquest, her family paid tribute to their “amazing wife, mother and grandmother who served the community of Barnet tirelessly for over 30 years as part of the NHS administration”.

They added: “Despite her illness, Priscilla was an active and extremely capable 76-year-old. She managed her condition with positivity, determination and dignity.

“[She] was a very special lady. She lost her life due to a fall but… it could have been anyone. She fell and this tragic accident led to the needless loss of a very valuable life – someone who had given so much to so many."

A GTR spokesman said: “We send our heart-felt sympathies to Mrs Tropp’s family. We will take on board concerns from the family about the management of the situation to ensure they are reflected in our local incident response plans.

"We are pleased that the Department for Transport will be funding lifts at the station which we have been petitioning for with the community for many years.”

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