Cancer patient's care was 'well below' standard
11:10am Tuesday 12th February 2013
A CATALOGUE of failings in the care of a cancer patient may have “reduced his life expectancy”, a coroner has ruled.
Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman believes that Nigel James may have lived for weeks or even months had his care at Southampton General Hospital not fallen “well below” the standard he was entitled to.
Criticising the “significant deficiencies” in the 67-year-old’s nursing records and care, the coroner expressed his disbelief at how problems so serious went unnoticed by staff on all levels.
Mr James’s family, who feel they were robbed of their chance to say goodbye, are now seeking legal action against the hospital.
As previously reported Mr James, from Hythe, died in hospital 18 days after he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of bladder cancer.
‘Catalogue of problems’
An inquest into his death last month heard how there had been a catalogue of problems that culminated in a failure to diagnose a blood clot from which the grandfather-of-five eventually died.
The main complaint centred around the apparent failure to administer a drug called Heparin prescribed to prevent blood clots.
Poor record-keeping meant it was impossible to know why this had not happened as Mr James was displaying clear symptoms that he was suffering from the condition, the inquest heard.
His family wrote a 47-page letter of complaint which prompted an internal investigation that identified 36 different failings by the hospital during Mr James’ stay.
Coroner Keith Wiseman said that while he was satisfied that the recommendations set out as a result of the investigation would deal with the majority of problems in this case, it was too late for Mr James’s family.
Recording a narrative verdict he said: “His treatment and care on ward F7 fell well below the standard that Mr James and his family were entitled to receive in a number of different respects clearly identified in the hospital review.
“This not only affected his general wellbeing... but may have reduced his life expectancy if his deep vein thrombosis could have been avoided.”
He added that there were “very significant deficiencies in nursing records” and that he found it “extraordinary” that problems to this “serious extent” were able to occur in the first place without any member of staff noticing.
Speaking after the verdict Nigel’s daughter Tracey McGinley, said: “This is no difference to the Stafford Hospital. There seems to be a systemic failure within the hospital itself.
“He wasn’t allowed to die in dignity. It is a whole catalogue of errors.”
His widow Mary added: “They failed him. I know he was ill but they didn’t do enough. I could have said goodbye.”
The family also expressed their concern over the apparent lack of disciplinary action taken against members of staff, fearing that just retraining will not solve the problems they faced.
* SOUTHAMPTON hospital bosses told the Echo that “extensive” improvements have been made as a result of the investigation into the care of Nigel James.
Judy Gillow, director of nursing at University Hospital Southampton, which runs Southampton General Hospital, said that they extend their deepest sympathies to his family for their loss.
But the trust was unable to say what disciplinary action, if any, had been taken against staff concerned with Mr James’s care. Ms Gillow added: “Following concerns raised by Mr James’s family, the trust conducted a full and externally-reviewed investigation which has led to extensive improvements around venous thromboembolism risk assessment, the recording of medical notes and commun-ication between staff, patients and family.
“We do hope the information provided at inquest, as well as the significant changes to practice across the organisation, will be of some comfort and we continue to offer his family our full support.”