Freak holiday fall leaves Portsmouth nurse with brain damage

Bill Allan
Bill Allan
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A nurse has been left brain-damaged after he fell from his bike in an accident in Spain.

Bill Allan, a 53-year-old nurse practitioner at St Mary’s walk-in unit in Portsmouth, had to have emergency brain surgery following the accident and was in a coma for almost two weeks.

Although he is now awake his injuries are life-changing and his partner of 20 years, Gary Swift, is not even sure if he recognises him.

Mr Swift, of Meredith Road, Hilsea, said the tragedy was made even worse by the lack of compassion by holiday insurance firm TIF Group and its subsidiary EAF.

He ended up paying £13,500 for an air ambulance to fly Mr Allan home when they failed to respond to his calls.

Mr Swift, who works in building maintenance, said: ‘We were cycling to the shops down a private road when I turned round and saw Bill lying on his back. He wasn’t moving, I knew it was serious.

‘He had two parts of his skull removed to ease the pressure on his brain. The care he received in the Spanish hospital was excellent but twice they said he wasn’t going to make it. I don’t think they bargained on the strength of a red-headed Scot.’

Back in the UK, Mr Allan was in intensive care but has now stabilised and is in the neurological rehabilitation ward.

Mr Swift said: ‘I’m still not quite sure if he knows who I am. He got my name wrong the other day.

‘But when a colleague was visiting him he remembered we used to keep chickens. He said it in the past tense, which is right.

‘It’s going to be a very. very long haul. It’s a waiting game to see how much progress he will make.’

Mr Allan only has the use of one arm and is not able to move independently.

His memory only goes back as far as 1980. Mr Swift says: ‘At the moment he is 30 years behind.’

Mr Swift has now put a claim in to TIF Group to reclaim the money he spent on the air ambulance.

Ironically, Mr Allan worked as an air ambulance flight nurse for two years, picking up injured patients around the world. He trained as a nurse in the Royal Navy and then spent 18 years in A&E at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.

He is qualified as a mental health nurse and a general nurse and can also prescribe drugs. He helped set up the out-of-hours service at St James’ Hospital and was the nursing manager at the former Sussex Weald and Down NHS Trust before he worked at St Mary’s.

Mr Swift says he was left in the lurch by TIF Group.

After his initial telephone call to the firm on the day of the accident, September 21, he says he called daily to try and find out how he should get his partner home.

But it was not until he called on October 3 that he was told, without any explanation, that the firm would not authorise an air ambulance home.

He was told a doctor from the insurance company would ring him to explain why but no-one ever did.

Two days later, and with no response, he took matters into his own hands and got into debt to pay £13,500 for an air ambulance home, fearful that any further delay would hinder Mr Allan’s recovery.

He said: ‘Bill was let down. They did not even bother to call me back when I rang. I had to constantly chase them for information.’

He has now submitted a complaint and compensation claim to the company – to which they haven’t responded.

But in a statement the insurers said: ‘The head injury Mr Allan sustained necessitated surgery.

‘The care provided at this hospital is high and equivalent to that to be found in any European teaching hospital.

‘In the opinion of our aviation medicine specialists there was no possible benefit to him to be transferred to the UK as the care provided at this hospital is high. We understand the frustrations of the family in such a tragic case and appreciate fully Mr Swift’s desire to bring him home.

‘Bringing Mr Allan home too soon; had we done so, we would have been in breach of our duty of care.

‘A claim has been submitted on behalf of Mr Allan and it will be dealt with promptly.’

N.B. This story was amended on November 27, 2013