NHS Trust Confirms Improvements Are Being Made To Prevent Future Deaths

Family Instruct Expert Lawyers To Pursue Justice For Death Of Father

07.02.2014

The heartbroken family of a father-of-two whose ‘unnecessary’ death resulted in a Coroner writing to the NHS Trust concerned have spoken of their relief after the Trust confirmed it has developed an action plan to prevent future deaths.

Anthony McCormick, from Congleton in Cheshire, died in May 2011 of multi organ failure caused by blood poisoning after staff at Macclesfield Hospital made a catalogue of errors in the four months leading up to his death, when he was suffering from gallstones.

During an inquest into the 79-year-old’s death held in September 2013, where the family were represented by Patricia Hitchcock QC of Cloisters chambers supported by medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell, Senior Coroner Nigel Meadows for the Manchester area recorded a narrative verdict and found:
• Staff failed to react to Mr McCormick’s abnormal blood tests in January 2011 which should have resulted in an urgent admission to hospital and further investigations;
• There was a failure by staff to appreciate the seriousness of Mr McCormick’s condition despite a CT scan the following month showing multiple liver abscesses and gallstones known to cause deadly infection;
• Staff delayed appropriate treatment – the removal of his gallbladder - by referring Mr McCormick back to his GP instead of to a specialist surgeon in March;
• Throughout Mr McCormick’s care at Macclesfield Hospital, staff failed to ensure he was consistently given the appropriate antibiotics to combat the infection caused by the liver abscesses.

Coroner Meadows added: “Had the deceased been referred in a timely and appropriate manner for the cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) on the 9 March 2011 ... he probably would have survived.”

He sent a ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’ to the Medical Director of East Cheshire NHS Trust detailing his concerns about the suggested failures in communication, failures to appreciate the seriousness of Mr McCormick’s condition and the appropriate treatment.

Mr McCormick’s daughters, Caroline McCormick and Shane Swaffield, have welcomed the Trust’s response, which confirms an action plan has been set up addressing each of the key areas the Coroner raised.

Caroline McCormick said: “Hearing the outcome of the Inquest was a moment of the most terrible mixed emotions. Our two-and-a-half year fight for recognition of the failings that led to our father’s death was validated, but nothing could make bearable the fact that he was gone forever from our lives.

“During this entire period the Trust refused to answer our questions, or to meet with us. Their communication with us was as poor as it was with my father during his treatment.

“This outcome was only possible because on hearing of my father’s case, Patricia Hitchcock QC volunteered to represent our family pro bono and Irwin Mitchell generously supported her.

“Our father was a community activist and campaigner for social justice. The best way the Trust could honour him and similar cases was to demonstrate that it has taken on board the Coroner’s ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’ and we are relieved that the action plan has been developed. We hope the Trust will continue to keep in touch with us so we can follow how it is implemented.”

Marcos Eleftheriou, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell is representing the family.

Expert Opinion
The inquest into Mr McCormick’s death highlighted a catalogue of failings made by the staff in charge of his care. These were deeply concerning and we welcome the Trust’s reassurance that lessons have been learnt to protect the safety of future patients.

“The family have understandably been left devastated by their loss and we will now continue to support them in their battle for justice. We will be making contact with East Cheshire NHS Trust to lay out the family’s concerns and hope to secure an admission of liability which will give them the answers and accountability they deserve.”
Marcos Eleftheriou, Associate

Timeline of events
27 January 2011 – Mr McCormick was referred to Macclesfield Hospital by his GP after suffering gastro symptoms and blood tests were found to be abnormal. A CT scan was requested
21 February 2011 – Mr McCormick was admitted to Macclesfield Hospital A&E before the CT scan had been arranged after suffering vomiting, lethargy, fever and rigors. He was given antibiotics
28 February 2011 – A CT scan commenced which revealed Mr McCormick had multiple liver abscesses and a large gallstone
8 March 2011 – Mr McCormick was discharged
9 March 2011 – Gallbladder removal was recommended by a specialist surgeon but staff failed to send an urgent referral, instead sending the matter back to be dealt with by Mr McCormick’s GP
7 April 2011 – Mr McCormick had surgery at Wythenshawe Hospital to remove a gall stone
9 May 2011 – He was readmitted to Macclesfield Hospital A&E after his symptoms worsened and further tests the next day confirmed further gallbladder stones and liver abscesses that had grown and required draining. The procedure was performed on 13 May
20 May 2011 – Mr McCormick was referred to North Manchester General Hospital for the gallbladder removal but was not seen by a specialist surgeon for a further four days
27 May 2011 – Mr McCormick had surgery to remove his gallbladder but developed pneumonia and sepsis
31 May 2011 – Mr McCormick died from multi-organ failure caused by sepsis

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence claims