Family distraught after mix-up over ‘dying’ dad

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Blundering hospital staff told a woman to say a final farewell to her “dying” father – only to admit later that the man was not related to her.

An investigation has now been launched into the incident at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

When Leanne Stewart phoned the hospital from Australia to ask about her father, David Stewart, of Bonnyrigg, she was told he was dying and given the opportunity to talk to him one last time. She begged with the man she thought was her dad not to die, but a nurse came on the line and broke the news that the 65-year-old had passed away as she was speaking to him.

Leanne, 33, made a call to her sister, Kirsty, to notify her of their father’s “shock death”. The pair immediately started planning funeral arrangements.

But hospital staff phoned the family back after 60 minutes to say they had made a “terrible mistake” and Leanne had actually been speaking to another dying man with a similar name – and that her father was alive, sleeping in another bed, and making a good recovery from a stroke.

Mr Stewart was transferred from the Royal Infirmary to Astley Ainslie Hospital last Thursday, where he is making steady progress. Kirsty said the family were initially willing to put the blunder down to an honest mistake, but dissatisfaction with other aspects of their father’s care provoked her to speak out. “After everything we had been through, it’s been completely unacceptable,” she added.

Melanie Hornett, NHS Lothian’s nurse director, said: “It was a case of human error and a mix-up between two patients of a similar name. As soon as the incident was identified, we informed the family, explained the circumstances and apologised.”