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An 1855 Portsea Hospital bed shortage raised concerns when a man who was turned away later died.

The inquest of  William PRAGNELL was reported in the Hampshire Advertiser and Hampshire Telegraph on 5 May 1855. It found  that William died of apoplexy, but concerns were raised over the lack of beds at the Royal Portsmouth Hospital where he was taken for treatment but was unable to be admitted.

Turned away from Hospital

The inquest was held on 1 May 1855 at the Buckingham Arms in Crasswell Street, Portsmouth by the coroner W.J. COOPER.  It was stated that on 27 April William PRAGNELL was a bricklayer working on a scaffold at Blockhouse Fort when he had a fit of apoplexy.  He was unconscious and was taken to Haslar Hospital in Gosport, where a surgeon recommended that he be taken to the Royal Portsmouth Hospital.  On arrival he was refused admission because there were no beds available. He was then taken home where he died at about 4.30 the following morning.

The Evidence

The main evidence was from William PRAGNELL’s brother George.  He was also working at Blockhouse Fort when he was told about his brother.  He described the visit to Haslar Hospital followed by the refusal at the Portsea hospital.  He also said that his brother suffered from ill health.  The other witness was W. P. FERNIE, the house surgeon at the Royal Portsmouth Hospital.  FERNIE stated that William was refused admission because the beds were all full, but on finding where William lived he followed him.  He then stayed with him until he died from a further attack of apoplexy.

The Findings

The verdict was “Died while in a fit of apoplexy”. From the evidence given a concern was raised on the lack of beds in the Royal Portsmouth Hospital.  The house surgeon stated that the hospital had 30 beds that were full and that morning four patients had to be turned away.   They also commended Mr. FERNIE for what he had done in the circumstances.

Who was William PRAGNELL?

Research shows that William was born to parents William and Sarah. He was baptized on 11 February 1800 in St Thomas.  His brother George was baptised in St Mary’s on 21 Apr 1803.  William married Catherine BAZILL on 9 October 1836 in St Thomas. They had a son Edwin in 1837.  Catherine was buried on 2 December 1838 in St Mary’s.  In the 1841 Census William was living with his mother and Edwin and another two children, Ann PRAGNELL and Harriet PRAGNELL.   In 1851 he was described as a widower and he and Edwin were lodging with William SUETT in 14 College Lane.  William was buried on 6 May in Portsea.

Roy Montgomery

HGS Research Centre

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