THE HEARTBROKEN wife of a father-of-seven, who died when his bowel was perforated during routine surgery, has spoken of her anger at Stafford’s Hospital bosses refusal to accept there were failings in his care.
Alan Nash died in March 2010 aged 61 and although health bosses have since admitted there were a number of ‘complications’ within the surgical unit during the time of his death they have denied any breach of their duty of care.
Mr Nash’s wife Jenny, who instructed medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his death, has now received and out-of-court settlement from Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, but said it was not about the money, adding the trust’s refusal to accept there were failings in his care mean questions remain as to whether lessons have been learnt.
Emma Rush, representing the family for Irwin Mitchell, said: “As part of our investigations into what happened to Alan, we discovered the trust’s own data revealed nine bowel perforations in a five year period – between 2005 and 2010.
“When compared with the fact that there were five perforations in just four months in early 2010, this would appear to indicate there was an alarming escalation around the time of Alan’s death,” she said.
Mr Nash was admitted as a day patient to undergo a colonoscopy under local anaesthetic at Stafford Hospital so doctors could confirm a suspected diagnosis of rectal cancer.
Despite Mr Nash telling staff he had been unable to empty his bowels as requested that morning and incomplete hospital paperwork which the law firm feel may have flagged pre-operative issues which should have been investigated, the surgery went ahead.
Mrs Nash, who was waiting outside the treatment room, said she heard her husband shout out in pain as the colonoscopy caused his bowel to burst at which point he was rushed to theatre for emergency repair surgery and late transferred to the hospital’s critical care unit.
He died later that day after poisonous fluids leaked into his body.
The family were also upset they were not involved in a discussion over a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order written into Mr Nash’s notes by a consultant.
“Although the colonoscopy confirmed that Alan had rectal cancer, his family firmly believe that he could have responded well to treatment and that his untimely death robbed them of precious time together,” said Ms Rush. “The Trust’s refusal to admit liability for Alan’s death in 2010, even though it has admitted that there were ‘complications’ within the colonoscopy unit at the time, inevitably raises a number of questions as to whether any lessons have been learnt, particularly in light of the previously well documented mistakes at Stafford Hospital.”
“Sadly it does little to reassure Alan’s family or the community in Staffordshire that improvements in patient care have been made.”
Ms Rush said the hospital’s own internal investigation said the incident was preventable and changes were required in current systems to minimise the chance of it happening again.
“Knowing what changes, if any, the hospital has made, would go some way towards helping the family come to terms with their loss,” she said.
Mrs Nash said her family were still struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
“Alan was the centre of our family,” she said. “Like many people living in Staffordshire we had been shocked by the reports about the high number of avoidable deaths at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008.
“We really hoped that things had started to improve there.
“I never imagined that when Alan walked into the hospital that morning, he would never come out and would end up as yet another of their fatal statistics.”
Mrs Nash said on the morning her husband was admitted he told his daughter he was concerned about the hospital’s reputation and she had reassured him because of the publicity around the issues Stafford Hospital should be the safest hospital to be treated at.
“He only agreed to go in order to get a diagnosis and had been planning to obtain treatment elsewhere,” said Mrs Nash. “We have since discovered that the procedure he underwent may not have been the correct one for his condition yet we were not offered any alternative options at the time.”
“The trust’s refusal to admit liability makes me so angry because nothing appears to have changed and our family has now joined hundreds of others who are needlessly mourning the loss of a loved one as a result of yet another hospital error,” she said. “If someone had listened to Alan that day when he told them he hadn’t emptied his bowels, or someone had properly filled out and checked the admission paperwork, we’re convinced he wouldn’t have died that day.”
Mrs Nash urged patients and their families to question doctors and nurses about treatments they were about to undergo to see if there were other options available.
“We believe that if more people are prepared to ask questions, it may ultimately save lives.”
Medical Director at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, Robert Courteney-Harris expressed his ‘sincere condolences’ to Mr Nash’s family for their sad loss.
He said: “After detailed investigations in relation to the care given to Mr Nash the trust does not accept that there has been any breach of its duty of care to Mr Nash but we are pleased that settlement has been reached with the family.”