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Family’s Anger At Being Left Waiting For Proof That Lessons Are Learnt

Wife Urges Patients And Families To Question Treatment Options


The heartbroken family of a father-of-seven who died after his bowel was perforated during routine surgery have spoken of their anger after discovering he was one of FIVE patients who had suffered the same complications over a period of just four months.

Alan Nash, died in March 2010 at Stafford Hospital aged 61, leaving his family devastated and desperate for answers. The troubled hospital is already at the centre of a Public Inquiry into serious failings relating to the deaths of hundreds of patients between 2005 and 2008.

Although health bosses have since admitted that there were a number of “complications” within the surgical unit during the time of Alan’s death they have refused to admit responsibility for any failings in Alan’s care.

His devastated wife Jenny, who instructed expert medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his death, has now received an out-of-court settlement from Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust but says it is not about the money and that the Trust’s refusal to accept there were failures in his care, means questions remain as to whether lessons have been learnt.

Emma Rush, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, who is representing the family, 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.”

On 19th March 2010, Alan Nash was admitted as a day patient to undergo a colonoscopy (an examination of the bowel using a fibre optic camera) under local anaesthetic at Stafford Hospital so that doctors could confirm a suspected diagnosis of rectal cancer.

Despite Alan telling hospital staff that he been unable to empty his bowels as requested that morning, and hospital paperwork which was incomplete but may also have flagged that there were pre-operative problems which should have been investigated, staff still went ahead with the surgery.

His distraught wife, who had been waiting outside the treatment room, heard him shout out in pain as the colonoscopy caused his bowel to burst.  Alan was rushed to theatre for emergency repair surgery and was later transferred to the hospital’s Critical Care Unit, but sadly died later that day after poisonous fluids leaked into his body.  The family also were concerned that a consultant had written in Alan’s medical notes a DNR order and stated that this was to be discussed with the family. The family remain angry that they were not involved in a discussion of this nature.

Emma Rush continued: “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.

“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. The hospital’s own internal investigation clearly documented that: this appears to have been preventable & changes are required in current systems to minimise the chance of a repeat. Knowing what changes, if any, the hospital has made, would go some way towards helping the family come to terms with their loss.”

His wife Jenny said: “The entire family has still not come to terms with what happened.  Alan was the centre of our family.

 “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.

“On the morning that he was admitted, Alan even mentioned to his daughter that he had concerns about the hospital’s current reputation. She reassured him that because of the well publicised problems which had appeared in the media, 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. 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 legal action has uncovered some important information about what was happening at the hospital at the time of Alan’s death but 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.

“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.
“Although Stafford Hospital has its problems it is not alone and other hospitals throughout the NHS need to ensure that patient safety is always put first.

“We would urge other patients and their families to ask doctors and nurses questions about the treatment they are about to undergo and if there are other options available.  We believe that if more people are prepared to ask questions, it may ultimately save lives.”

Stafford Hospital is currently at the centre of a Public Inquiry into the higher than expected number of deaths which occurred there between 2005 and 2008. The Inquiry was set up after a Healthcare Commission Report in 2009 found ‘appalling standards of care.’

The Public Inquiry, which has focused on why regulators and external bodies failed to spot there was a problem, lasted 139 days and included more than a million pages of evidence. The publication of the final report’s findings is due to be made public in January 2013.