NHS Lanarkshire rapped for ‘unreasonable’ failings

A HEALTH board has been forced to review its working practices after a catalogue of “unreasonable” failures in the end-of-life care of a 61-year-old man.

Eileen Docherty complained after husband Patrick, inset, died following gastroscope. Picture: John Devlin
Eileen Docherty complained after husband Patrick, inset, died following gastroscope. Picture: John Devlin

The family of Patrick Docherty, who died at Wishaw General Hospital last March, launched a complaint against NHS Lanarkshire over the sub-standard care he received during the ten days he spent there before his death.

The father-of-three had previously been cared for at home by his wife Eileen. He suffered from a number of long-term illnesses, including anaemia and ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic condition which causes inflammation of the spine.

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But on 24 February his condition had deteriorated so much that he was taken to A&E as he was suffering from uncontrollable shakes, hallucinations and was unable to swallow.

Over the next ten days, his family were left confused and isolated by the conflicting information they received from doctors over his prognosis.

Mrs Docherty, from Wishaw, said: “It was just one failure after another. Sometimes doctors would tell me he was dying and then another time I was told he wasn’t.

“We didn’t know whether we were coming or going or who to trust.”

A report from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) upheld a complaint from his wife that the hospital had “unreasonably failed” to provide proper end-of-life care for Mr Docherty.

The ombudsman found that he was put forward for tests just two days before palliative care and a transfer to a hospice was considered, although his condition had not changed.

Occupational health staff even called his home to arrange for a special bed to be delivered, the day after his family were told he was too ill to leave hospital.

He was also given a gastroscopy on the day he died, even though no consent was given by his family.

Mrs Docherty, 62, said: “Even when I said he was too frail, they still took him for a scope.

“My husband didn’t deserve to get treated that way.

“I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to him as the doctors took me outside to speak to me and my sister had to come and tell me that he was away.”

Staff also failed to register his death properly and did not inform the procurator-fiscal, which should have been done as his death was clinically unexplained.

Ombudsman Jim Martin said: “The advice received indicates that medical staff seemed to have been left unsure if they were providing active treatment or palliative care.”

He was “particularly concerned” about the failure to gain consent from Mr Docherty’s family for a gastroscopy, as he had been declared as an adult of incapacity so he could not give his own consent.

The ombudsman passed down a string of recommendations to NHS Lanarkshire, including the use of Mr Docherty’s case in training of new staff and appraisals of consultants.

Irene Barkby, NHS Lanarkshire director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals, said: “We would like to take this opportunity to apologise most sincerely to the patient’s wife for failing to provide an appropriate level of care and communication to her and her husband.

“We fully accept the recommendations contained within the ombudsman’s report.”