A private healthcare contractor has defended its receptionist’s decision to file a seriously ill woman’s condition as non-urgent - despite the patient's death from multiple organ failure four days later.

Virgin Care claimed staff "correctly streamed" Madhumita Mandal, 30, to see an in-house nurse instead of A&E doctors after she arrived at its urgent care centre at Croydon University Hospital on September 7, 2013.

A senior coroner yesterday said she would write to Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which buys in the service, with her concerns about the triage system, which gives receptionists with no medical training responsibility for deciding if patients need emergency treatment.

Doctors working at the hospital have “never been happy” with the system, it has emerged.

An inquest into Mrs Mandal's death heard this week that receptionist Triveni Dhavade believed the IT worker "wasn't that sick" as she lay vomiting in the centre's empty waiting room for nearly an hour.

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Mrs Mandal's grieving husband, Prabhanjan Behera, said he believed his wife's illness "was not taken seriously enough".

He added: "To have non-medical staff making these potentially life-or-death decisions seems to be unacceptable to me and I would hope that medically qualified people will be making decisions in future."

A spokesman for Virgin Care said: "Mrs Mandal was correctly streamed to the urgent care centre based upon the symptoms she presented with when she initially walked in.

"Unfortunately her condition deteriorated rapidly and, while our nurse who saw Mrs Mandal after 51 minutes in the urgent care centre correctly escalated the situation to the emergency department, we are sorry to Mrs Mandal's family for their distress during the wait to be seen."

But an independent expert called to give evidence to at the inquest said it was "impossible to say" the seriousness of Mrs Manda's condition when she arrived because no tests were done.

Dr Neil Soni, a consultant in critical care, said: "It is reasonable to assume that it was not dramatically different [when she was seen by a nurse] to what her condition was an hour ago."

Mrs Mandal, of Paul Gardens, Croydon, endured hours of further delays as doctors at the hospital's A&E argued over the seriousness of her condition.

She eventually underwent surgery to remove a ruptured ovarian cyst. She never recovered, and died on September 11, four days after being admitted to hospital.

Senior coroner Selena Lynch criticised both the urgent care centre and Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, which runs the A&E, over the delays.

She is to write to Croydon CCG to ask it to "look into" the streaming system, which has caused concern among doctors and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

A CQC report on the urgent care centre, published in October 2013 after an inspection that July, said: "We were concerned that there was a risk of a patient with a serious illness or injury being wrongly streamed and their condition deteriorating."

Emergency department doctors have also voiced fears about the Virgin Care centre's triage system, the inquest heard.

Dr Kathryn Channing, lead consultant at the hospital's A&E, said: "We as a department have never been happy with that.

“I think I can speak for both my colleagues and myself when I say that clinical staff conducting the streaming would be more appropriate."

However, Virgin Care added: "The reception-based streaming model specified for the UCC by NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group, as the coroner noted, has been recognised by the Department of Health and we work closely with our colleagues in the emergency department to ensure patients are seen in the most appropriate service as promptly as possible."

A Croydon CCG spokeswoman said: "Croydon CCG has conducted its own investigation into this tragic event, and this can now be completed following the conclusion of the inquest yesterday. We will ensure that any recommendations made by the coroner are considered in full and included in our recommendations.

"We will continue to work with our providers, Virgin Care and Croydon Health Services, to ensure that those patients requiring emergency care are correctly identified and receive the appropriate treatment.

“A number of measures have already been implemented to improve care."

All patients will be assessed by trained nurses instead of Virgin Care receptionists during the rebuilding of the hospital's A&E, which will begin in November.

Dr Nnenna Osuji, medical director at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, said she hoped the arrangement would continue when construction is completed.