WYCOMBE Hospital has been cleared of any blame after fears that service cuts had led to the death of a man who fell from Easton Street car park.

An inquest into the death of Tariq Khan, 35, of Priory Avenue, High Wycombe, who died at Wycombe Hospital last September, ruled that the moving of trauma surgery facilities to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury was not to blame.

Under the Shaping Health Services programme introduced in August 2005, all trauma patients are now usually expected to be transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, unless their condition is life threatening.

In October last year all 12 consultant anaesthet-ists wrote a letter to Dr Andrew Kirk, medical director at Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust, saying the quality of care for critically ill patients had deteriorated because of the changes and gave the death of Mr Khan as an example.

But at the end of the two-day inquest at Amersham Magistrates Court on Friday, Richard Hulett, the Bucks coroner, stressed the hospital was not to blame.

He said: "There has been some public concern about recent reorganisation relating to patient transfer to Stoke Mandeville.

"I was looking to see if this was a case where a man needed surgery which he didn't get or was delayed because of a lack of overnight facilities or services. But that is not what is revealed by the evidence. These issues appear to have played no part."

The inquest heard that Mr Khan had been taken to Wycombe Hospital on September 10 at around 9.45pm after going into cardiac arrest.

Medical staff said scans were made to look for internal bleeding, but no damage showed up.

At around 3.45am it was decided he should have an exploratory operation. Mr Khan was admitted to theatre just after 4am, but suffered another cardiac arrest and died.

Dr Simon Smith, an A&E consultant, said Wycombe Hospital was not expected to deal with many cases where patients would require immediate surgery.

"Protocol now is that if a patient has a trauma injury they will go to Stoke Mandeville. The system as it is designed is that it would be a rare event to have to take a patient to theatre at Wycombe Hospital," he said.

Other comments by Dr Smith that a theatre team had to be specially called in to deal with Mr Khan were later denied by Andrew Northeast, a consultant surgeon, who said that a theatre team was always on site and had been on overnight when Mr Khan died.

He explained that the only person not there was the surgeon registrar, but added that the hospital had been using an on call registrar for more than two years - long before the introduction of the Shaping Health Services changes.

Mr Northeast said: "There was effectively no difference in terms of response and level of response available."

He added that the availability of consultants was the same at both Wycombe and Stoke Mandeville Hospitals.

Jon Fisher, head of communications at Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "The Trust provides a surgical team at Wycombe Hospital, including a senior on-call surgical team, and operating theatre for the rare occasions when a patient's condition is so life-threatening that a longer journey to a specialist centre would not be appropriate. These staff and facilities were available for Mr Khan, but sadly his condition deteriorated and surgery could not take place."

Mr Hulett recorded a narrative' verdict.

He said: "At about 20.45pm on September 10, 2005, Tariq Khan fell from a significant, but unknown height at Easton Street car park, High Wycombe, and sustained external injuries. The circumstances of his fall and its immediate cause cannot be discovered from the evidence."