16 Jul 2013

How a ‘simple mistake’ led to the death of a pensioner

The family of a pensioner who died in an NHS hospital after being wrongly given solid food talks to Channel 4 News about what happened.

Edward Maitland had had tongue cancer. He found it hard to speak, could not swallow and lived on special milkshakes because solid food was too dangerous, writes Jane Deith.

When he went in to Wycombe Hospital with dehyrdation, his treatment plan and notes stated no solid food. Yet nurses fed him for days, until he choked on a Weetabix. He was resuscitated, but the food had got into his lungs. The mistake killed him.

Mr Maitland’s son Gary said: “I was horrified such a simple mistake could be made. It was three weeks of pain and anguish. I would rather he hadn’t been resuscitated in first action, having watched him go through that for three weeks.”

Mr Maitland’s inquest in February was told there had been a “shortfall in communication” between hospital departments.

Wycombe Hospital is part of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, one of 14 NHS trusts criticised in a report by Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England.

Special measures

The trust is now in special measures after concerns were raised over staffing levels, particularly out of hours.

It has recently undergone significant change, most notably the consolidation of the A&E department from Wycombe to Stoke Mandeville.

Speaking about the Keogh review, Anne Eden, chief executive of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We were encouraged that, overall, there were no significant issues with the safety or quality of care provided at our hospitals.

“In particular, the review team spoke to many patients who were ‘unreservedly complimentary about the quality of nursing care they had experienced’.

“However, there were too many instances where patients and staff said we got it wrong and we accept that it is not good enough. We will be looking at all patient complaints raised through this review to see whether they are already being dealt with or to identify any further action we could take.

“Patient safety and compassionate care are an absolute focus for us.”