A PENSIONER who was suffering with a severe gastric illness died after a hotel sent her on a 350-mile journey home in a taxi, an inquest heard.

Norma Francis, 79, and her husband John, 82, arrived at the Loch Achray Hotel in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park by coach on April 3 last year.

The couple were celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary, along with close friends Sidney and Sheila Hornblower.

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But two days into their break, Mrs Francis began to suffer from symptoms of gastric illness, which progressively worsened.

The hotel manager told them staff were arranging a taxi home rather than sending her to hospital.

The couple left the hotel on April 6 and Mrs Francis slept for most of the seven-hour journey to Gnosall, Staffordshire.

But when they arrived home, the mother-of-two could not be roused and an ambulance was called.

She never regained consciousness and died at Stafford County Hospital later that day as a result of acute gastroenteritis and norovirus.

An inquest was told that Mrs Francis should have been assessed by medics and her condition was “worsened by a long journey home”.

Stafford Crown Court heard it had been a joint decision between the hotel and the couple, but there had been an “element of pressure” from the hotel.

South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh said he would not make a formal report to the hotel, acknowledging that lessons had been learned since the death.

Recording a narrative verdict, he said: “She was persuaded, and appeared well enough, to travel home by taxi without medical advice.

“She was not assessed prior to the long journey back and in hindsight she should have been.”

In a statement read out to the court, Mr Francis said: “At no time was professional medical advice offered.

“I felt the situation was a mess and there was no alternative on how we would get home other than to go then.”

Daughter Anne Francis added: “I feel that they failed miserably with their duty of care.

“It will never be the same again, all for the sake of a phone call to a doctor beforehand.”

Neil Wells, managing director at Lochs and Glens Holidays, defended the hotel’s actions.

He said: “Mr and Mrs Francis would have decided if they were well enough to leave.

“There are plenty of cases where guests decide to stay on for a few days and we accommodate that.”

He added that he felt as though there was not any undue pressure on the couple to get a taxi.