NHS Borders says sorry for letting stroke victim down

Borders General Hospital.
Borders General Hospital.

Claims that Borders General Hospital staff ignored concerns about a patient’s health just weeks before he died have been confirmed by an investigation.

NHS Borders has been ordered to apologise to a Hawick widow after she complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman about the care and treatment her husband received prior to his death.

An inquiry by the ombudsman found that doctors failed to diagnose the man’s stroke after he was initially admitted to the Melrose hospital with pneumonia.

Computerised tomography scan results after his discharge from hospital confirmed he’d had a stroke and the man was readmitted, but his condition had deteriorated and he died weeks later.

His widow also complained that her late husband did not receive the required six-month monitoring of his replacement heart valve, as previously agreed.

Publishing its findings, the ombudsman said: “In relation to his medical treatment, we found that there had been a lack of continuity during his first admission, which contributed to the fact that the significance of the deterioration in his cognitive function and incontinence was missed despite the family highlighting this.

“Whilst much of the communication with his family had been reasonable, there was a failure to listen to the family’s concerns at that time.

“We also found that it was unreasonable that a CT scan was not carried out during this admission, although we could not say whether or not this would have diagnosed his stroke.”

The ombudsman upheld a further complaint concerning the nursing care the widow’s husband received while in hospital too and added: “There had been a failure to meet some of his basic personal care needs and to assess and manage his ongoing continence problems.

“Nursing staff also failed to review his cognitive impairment on an ongoing basis and to involve his family in the planning and review of his care.”

It also deemed that the board had failed to reasonably monitor the man’s replacement heart valve on a six-monthly basis.

“We considered that it was unreasonable to plan to follow up a patient with a serious chronic condition but fail to do so without any clear explanation,” the report said.

NHS Borders was ordered to apologise for those failings and has also been issued with a list of improvements to be put in place by a set deadline.

An NHS Borders spokeswoman said: “We have accepted the recommendations identified in full and have started to make the changes required so that similar experiences are avoided in the future.

“We are very sorry for the additional upset that our failings have caused the man’s wife and her family at an already difficult time and have offered a full apology.”