St Richard’s Hospital criticised at Chichester inquest

A&E, St Richard's Hospital  Picture by Louise Adams
A&E, St Richard's Hospital Picture by Louise Adams

A CALL for better care for families who have lost a loved one has been made after a woman died in a Chichester hospital.

Senior coroner for West Sussex Penelope Schofield made the strong comments following an inquest into the death of Lynda Beech, 62, who died in St Richard’s Hospital after she had a gastric bypass.

Ms Schofield said she accepted the hospital had done all it could but wanted them to take on board comments about the level of care and communication families receive.

She said: “Sensitivity needs to be given to a family who have just lost a loved one. There needs to be a private place they can go rather than them being left to face the public.”

Returning a verdict of death caused by complications from elective surgery Ms Schofield praised the dignity the family had shown throughout the inquest held on Tuesday in Edes House.

Mrs Beech’s daughter, Donna Tompkins of North Bersted Street, Bersted, described her as a lovely mum.

She said: “My mum was a lovely woman, she had a heart of gold and she was my mum. We were very close, she had me when she was 16 so we had a very close bond, we are a very close family and she was very loved.

“She was just my mum.”

Mrs Beech, of Gilbert Road, was admitted to St Richard’s on October 9 of last year for weight loss surgery.

She died five days later after an anastomotic leak caused multi-organ failure. William Hawkins, a bariatric consultant surgeon at St Richard’s, told the inquest the operation did take longer than usual, some four hours, because of complications with a hiatal hernia and another hernia lower down in Mrs Beech’s stomach.

After the operation, Mrs Beech was in pain and not recovering well from the procedure.

She was taken back into surgery in the early hours of the Friday morning.

Dr Hawkins told the inquest he expected the pain to be caused by the hernia lower down in Mrs Beech’s stomach but this was not the case.

He said he did not find any evidence of a leak, but did find pockets of blood in the stomach which he washed out and a problem further down in her bowel.

The court heard although the mother-of-two did show some improvement she rapidly went downhill on the Sunday afternoon.

She was taken back into surgery at around 8pm that night.

Dr Guy Slater, a consultant and bariatric surgeon at St Richard’s, performed the third procedure.

He told the inquest he did find a small hole which was causing a leak. He then placed drains into Mrs Beech and a feeding tube.

He told the court he did not repair the hole as any stitch would not have held.

During the inquest Mrs Beech’s family expressed serious concerns the risks of the operation were not fully explained.

Mrs Tompkins said: “I don’t think my mum was aware of the risks. She was so happy to be having the surgery as it was her second attempt to be put forward for it.

“She was on cloud nine.

“She was just looking forward to starting her new life. She was looking forward to being able to do a lot more and being more mobile.

“As her family we certainly weren’t aware of the risks. It is only through reading her medical records after her death that I have found out about diseases she had. I think we should have been told.

“Had I known the risks I would not have let her go through with it.”

The court heard Mrs Beech was told about the risks when she attended a pre-assessment day on May 9, 2013, and before the operation.

Dr Hawkins said she had been shown a slideshow and given leaflets but the hospital should consider telling patients they should bring a friend or family member with them.

He added she had been told about increased risks due to other conditions she had.

Mrs Tompkins told said she felt a lack of communication with doctors and nurses had meant she was unable to say goodbye to her mum.

She said: “She was my mum and I never I got to say goodbye. I was not given the chance to say goodbye to her.

“The way we were treated was disgusting. We were chucked out of the intensive care unit after she died. We weren’t taken to a private room, we were just left”

The family also said they felt any leak may have been picked up earlier had Mrs Beech been given a CT scan and questioned why she waited so long before the third operation.

Dr Slater said Mrs Beech wasn’t given the scan because they didn’t feel she would be able to cope with the procedure and the wait was needed to make sure Mrs Beech was strong enough.