NHS Trust Admits Man's Death Could Have Been Prevented Had Doctors Given Appropriate Care

Medical Negligence Lawyers Secure Admission Of Liability But Say Trust Must Improve Standards


The family of a father-of-two who died from pneumonia and blood poisoning after doctors failed to realise he had suffered seven fractured ribs during a fall say they have concerns that lessons have not been learnt following ‘terrible’ failings in his care.

Peter Bellinger’s family are speaking out after medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured an admission of liability from Blackpool Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for failings by medical staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital that led to the 77-year-old’s death in December 2010.

However, the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection report* into the Trust found it requires improvement, with medical care (including older people’s care) noted as not being up to standard, and the family say they are worried not enough is being done to improve services. 

This is despite the Trust being given a number of recommendations to make improvements last year after it was one of 14 investigated by Sir Bruce Keogh following concerns about high mortality rates.

Peter, of Bela Grove in Blackpool, fell on ice outside his home on 5 December 2010 and was admitted to hospital in agony and suffering breathing problems.

However, it was not until several days later that medical staff finally realised he had suffered multiple fractured ribs, by which point his breathing had become so difficult due to the agonising chest pain that he had contracted pneumonia which led to septicaemia. 

He died on the evening of 9 December and a post-mortem showed he had in-fact fractured a total of seven ribs.

Expert evidence commissioned by Irwin Mitchell found the Trust breached its duty of care by failing to:
• Maintain detailed notes of Peter’s condition to ensure he could receive appropriate treatment;
• Suspect and diagnose Peter as suffering from multiple rib fractures when his extreme pain and breathing difficulties suggested that was the case;
• Provide Peter with adequate pain relief;
• Provide an epidural which would have allowed Peter to breathe deeply and undergo physiotherapy to prevent him from developing bronchopneumonia;
• Exercise such care, skill, competence and diligence as was reasonably expected.

To make matters worse for Peter’s distraught wife Angela and children Michelle, 49, and Alison, 41, a doctor also wrongly placed a ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation Order (DNAR) on Peter on the day before his death, which the Trust has since admitted was inappropriate.

In a letter of response sent on behalf of the Trust last month to Irwin Mitchell it admitted: “Had appropriate care been provided, it is likely that Mr Bellinger would have survived his hospital stay.”

Sarah Sharples is a medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office representing the family. 

Expert Opinion
This is a tragic case that saw a previously healthy man die as a result of a catalogue of terrible failings by health professionals who were meant to be caring for him.

“Because Peter was in so much pain from the fractured ribs, he could not breathe properly which meant his lungs became inflamed and infected which eventually caused him to develop blood poisoning.

“His wife and children who stayed with him throughout his hospital stay had to watch him suffer in agony, cry with pain and they remain devastated at losing him so suddenly and unexpectedly after what they thought was nothing more than a fall.

“We welcome the admission of liability from the Trust as at least the family now have some accountability. However, it is vital that the Trust takes steps to reassure the public that it is investing resource in improving standards of care so patient safety is protected and no one else is subjected to the same unacceptable failings.

“We hope that the CQC will continue to monitor standards within the Trust and if improvements are not made, enforcement action will be taken to protect the safety of those relying on its health services.”
Sarah Sharples, Associate

Wife Angela, 77, of Thornton-Cleveleys, said: “It was absolutely devastating to see my husband in such pain and obvious discomfort. He couldn’t breathe properly and it was clear that he was in excruciating pain but nothing was being done about it. My daughters and I put our trust in the hands of the doctors at the hospital, but he wasn’t given the level of care he needed and deserved. 

“If the hospital had paid attention to how much pain Peter was in, and gave him adequate pain relief then he would still be here.

“Instead, he was left to suffer and we could only look on helplessly as he deteriorated. We still can’t believe that he’s not here and he should be. It should have been our Golden wedding anniversary earlier this year which was a very difficult time as it should have been a big family celebration with him there.

“We are pleased that the hospital Trust has admitted that they didn’t look after Peter properly but it won’t bring him back. What we really want to see is proof that lessons have been learnt and that staff are better equipped to provide fast, appropriate treatment as should be expected.

“Knowing that the Trust is still underperforming is very difficult to deal with as Peter’s death should not have been in vain. We would like peace of mind that no other patient could be subjected to the same poor care as no one deserves to suffer in the way my husband did.”

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