Coroner Criticises Care Of Man Who Died After Being Prescribed Common Heart Drug

Lawyers Say Lessons Must Now Be Learnt By NHS Across The UK After Monitoring Protocol Not To ‘An Adequate Standard’

25.09.2013

By Dave Grimshaw

The family of a man who died from known side effects of a drug prescribed to control irregular heartbeats have called for lessons to be learnt after an inquest criticised his care.

John Bailey, from Owlthorpe, in Sheffield, was admitted to hospital in December 2008 with heart palpitations and a lower respiratory tract infection. He was placed on a drug called Amiodarone, which is intended to prevent a heart-attack or stroke and helps with irregular heartbeats.

Mr Bailey developed a well recognised complication of the drug and died aged 74, at the Sheffield Northern General in April 2011.

The drug has strict guidelines on its prescription and monitoring and the family instructed specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after being concerned about whether the protocols for its use were adequate.

At an inquest at the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield earlier this month, the Assistant Coroner found that the cause of death was a chest infection linked to lung fibrosis which had been caused by Amiodarone Toxicity.

Julian Fox, Assistant Coroner, also said that the Sheffield Shared Care Protocol was not drafted to an adequate standard, nor was it disseminated correctly and as a result, there had been a delay in Mr Bailey receiving effective treatment.

The local Sheffield NHS Trust has since implemented changes in their monitoring of the drug but the Assistant Coroner felt it necessary to write a ‘Regulation 28’ letter to the Department of Health as he felt this was an issue of national safety in relation to the monitoring of those on Amiodarone.

Heather Kolar, a specialist medical lawyer representing Mr Bailey’s family, said: “The family are naturally devastated by John’s death. They had lots of questions about the adequacy of monitoring of those on Amiodarone and the inquest helped provide some answers they needed to begin to move on with their lives.

“The local NHS trust has already made many changes to the way they operate in relation to the prescription of Amiodarone. We welcome the assistant coroner’s decision to write to the department of health and it is now imperative that other NHS trusts across the country take note and ensure that their procedures also operate to the highest standards to prevent other families suffering from a similar tragedy in future.

Mr Bailey leaves a widow, Maureen Bailey, 78, a daughter Christine, 50, a 49-year-old son Richard, along with six-grandchildren. He was a loving grandfather and is greatly missed by his family.

Mr Bailey’s daughter Christine Drabble, 50, from Handsworth, said: “We have mixed feelings at present. On the one hand it is a relief that the delays in my father’s diagnosis of Amiodarone toxicity have been acknowledged as playing a part in his death, but on the other hand it makes us both angry and upset that the delay in diagnosis occurred because of lack of awareness of the symptoms.

“There was a protocol in place for the management of those on Amiodarone but that it was poorly written and circulated. 

“We are pleased that the coroner has investigated the death so thoroughly and that steps are now being taken both locally and nationally with the letter to the Department of Health, to improve standards of care when Amiodarone is being used.

“It will take a long time to get over this but we sincerely hope that our father’s death is not in vain and that lessons are learnt from this inquest to stop others suffering in future.”

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