Lawyers Call For NHS To Review Diagnosis Procedure After Death At Yorkshire Hospital

Experts Demand Action Following Inquest

22.06.2011

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell are urging the NHS to review its diagnosis procedures after a man died when doctors at a Yorkshire hospital failed to spot bleeding into his lung after adopting a “wait and see” approach to see if he would improve.

Peter Eustace, from Monkhill Lane in Pontefract, died aged 57 on the Bexley Wing of St James’ University Hospital, Leeds in October 2010.

An inquest into his death at Wakefield Coroner’s Court this week found that Mr Eustace died as a result of bleeding into his lung, which is thought to have been caused when doctors had removed a drain from his chest. He had previously undergone a lung biopsy, a procedure to examine the tissue from his lung.

Medical law specialists from Irwin Mitchell, representing Mr Eustace’s family, are now calling for the NHS to review diagnostic procedures in emergency situations – after it emerged doctors adopted a “wait and see” approach to his condition to see if it would improve.

During this time doctors worked on the basis that Mr Eustace could have been suffering from a heart attack, blood clot or chest infection, but did not consider bleeding to be a possible cause of his symptoms.

Anna Bosley, a solicitor in the medical law team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Because Mr Eustace’s deterioration came late on a Sunday evening there was no consultant available to review his condition, and the consultant was actually on the way to the hospital at the time Mr Eustace died.

“Had there been a more senior doctor present it is possible that he or she would have been able to detect that Mr Eustace was in fact suffering from bleeding to his lung, and this may have prevented his death.

“It is important that the NHS learns important lessons from this case to ensure other patients and families do not suffer as Mr Eustace and his family did. Patient safety has to be a priority at all times for the NHS and we hope action is taken to prevent this from happening again.”

Mr Eustace had undergone a lung biopsy at St James’ University Hospital on 21 October. The surgery itself was uneventful and Mr Eustace appeared to be making good progress in his recovery.

His intercostal chest drain was then removed on the morning of 24 October, ready for his transfer to Pontefract General Infirmary on Monday 25 October. However, it appears that the removal of the chest drain damaged a blood vessel around his rib cage, which caused the bleed into his lung.

At around 11.30pm the same evening, Mr Eustace’s blood pressure dropped and he complained he was suffering from right sided chest pain and shortness of breath.  He was treated with intravenous fluids, analgesia and increased supplemental oxygen, as the doctors adopted a “wait and see” approach while waiting for the consultant to arrive and review him.

However, the treatments did not improve Mr Eustace’s condition, which deteriorated until he died three hours later, after suffering a cardio-respiratory arrest. He also suffered from an ongoing lung condition which also contributed to his death.

Mr Eustace’s widow, Alyson Eustace, said: “Our whole family has been devastated by Peter’s sudden death. As far as we were aware he had been making a good recovery, so his death came as a terrible shock to us.

“We welcome the findings of the inquest and we are pleased to now have some answers as to how and why Peter died. Despite this, nothing can be done to bring Peter back to us, and we remain concerned over the level of care he received at the hospital.

“We just hope that lessons are learned from this so no one has to go through the same situation in future.”

Notes to Editors

The family do not wish to do interviews and have asked that all media enquiries come through the Irwin Mitchell press office