Spouse believes surgery delay led to patient’s death

The patient required prostate surgery but during a delay caused by NHS Lothian, their health deteriorated.

Spouse believes surgery delay led to patient’s death iStock

Edinburgh health chiefs have been forced to apologise after ‘significantly delaying’ a patient’s prostate surgery – which their spouse believes led to their death.

The patient, who must remain anonymous, required prostate surgery but during a delay caused by NHS Lothian, their health deteriorated.

Following a ‘significant’ delay, the patient finally received the surgery, but died the next day.

Although the death certificate gave ‘community acquired pneumonia’ as the cause of death, the patient’s spouse believed that NHS Lothian’s delay caused their partner’s death, and so complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) – a government watchdog that investigates complaints against public institutions in Scotland.

Now the SPSO has ordered NHS Lothian to apologise, after health bosses admitted ‘it was unlikely that A had acquired pneumonia in the community’.

A decision notice, published by the SPSO and which refers to the patient and their spouse as ‘A’ and ‘C’ respectively, reads: “C complained about the care and treatment provided to their spouse, A.

“A suffered from progressive lung disease and required prostate surgery.

“There was a significant delay in performing A’s surgery, during which time A’s health deteriorated.

“A was discharged home following their operation, but was readmitted the following day and died shortly afterwards.

C believed that A would have survived had the operation been performed sooner, as their health would have been better.

“C also said that A’s death certificate was inaccurate, as it stated that A had died from community acquired pneumonia.

“C said that A had not been well when they were discharged, had been at home for less than 24 hours and had spent the majority of that period in bed.

“We took independent medical advice. We found that A’s condition had not been properly monitored following their operation, as the board’s assessment had been based on assumptions about A’s condition prior to admission.

“This meant that A had been discharged without evidence of a deterioration in their condition being properly considered.”

NHS Lothian bosses have also been slapped on the wrist for the way they handled the complaint.

The decision notice continues: “We also found that C’s complaint had not been handled to a reasonable standard.

“The board had initially informed this office that it had nothing to add to its response to C’s complaint.

“However, following our enquiries, the board accepted that it was unlikely that A had acquired pneumonia in the community.

“Additionally the board’s complaint investigation had failed to identify that A’s condition was not properly assessed prior to discharge.”

In response to the decision, NHS Lothian was contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and asked to explain why A’s surgery was delayed, and why A’s condition was not monitored properly prior to discharge.

A spokesperson for NHS Lothian said they did not have consent to provide further information.

Instead, Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “We are very sorry for the failings in this case and for the distress that it has caused C.

“We accept the ombudsman’s recommendations and we are working through a plan of action to address the issues raised.”

Reporting by Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Anderson