Brentwood cabbie’s death blamed by widow on NHS becoming ‘National Covid Service’

The heartbroken wife of a former black cab driver whose death following a suspected ruptured gallbladder came after being misdiagnosed online, says lives are being lost because the NHS has become the “National Covid Service”.

Lisa King’s appeal comes as the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Martin Marshall, told a webinar on Thursday (October 29) that GPs were ‘taking risks’ by working remotely and therefore not being able to pick up soft signs of illness.

Lisa could only watch as her husband Peter died on their Brentwood living room floor, after collapsing with what medics said was a massive heart attack.

The 62-year-old had been due to have his gallbladder removed, which had already once become infected in July and which doctors had then misdiagnosed in an online appointment as a digestive problem.

Instead it turned out he needed urgent medical attention after a rancid gall stone had become lodged in his bile duct and his gallbladder had become badly infected and inflamed.

Within half an hour of arriving at Queen’s Hospital in Romford on July 19 he was moved to a surgical assessment unit, where he was told by a consultant that they believed it was a problem with his gallbladder, and that he needed a CT scan.

Peter had been told the infection would have to be cleared up before an operation to remove it could take place.

By August the infection had gone and, after a pre op consultation on September 7, he was told he was looking at an operation in around four weeks’ time.

The events of Friday, October 9, now appear like a horror move to Lisa, 55, who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and who says she has been “left to rot”.

She said he was fine in the morning, but later when she was out she got a call from her son at 10am saying she had to come back urgently because his dad had got a similar pain as in July, but said it was worse and he had been sick.

She said: “He was sweating but freezing. He was talking to me.

“I told 999 that I think his gallbladder was ruptured. He’s in a lot of pain.

“He’s white around his nose, white around the mouth. After 20 minutes the ambulance came.

“They did an ECG and took his blood pressure, then he had a fit. They had to put him in the resuscitation position and they tried to shock him. That didn’t work.

“They put a call out and then the house was swamped with other paramedics and then the air ambulance came with two doctors.”

Lisa said paramedics gave Peter 14 shocks and tried to revive him for an hour.

“They got a pulse but it went and they eventually told me they had to turn the machine off and that he had had a major heart attack,” she added.

“I said ‘how, why?’ They said the gallbladder may have ruptured.

“It’s so sad that he is a non-Covid patient dying because the hospitals are not doing these operations.”

She added: “If he had been seen face to face they would have known instantly it was a problem with his gallbladder.

“And they would have sent him off to the surgical day unit.”

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that the government’s ‘protect the NHS’ message at the start of the pandemic was ‘unhelpful’.

In a webinar on Thursday he said GPs were ‘taking risks’ by working remotely.

Professor Marshall said: “We are potentially taking risks by not seeing people face to face. And that is the big decision that needs to be made by clinicians in conjunction with patients, when doesn’t face to face add value?

“It’s about much more than just being face to face in order to examine someone, or in order to take a blood test. A lot of face to face consultations in general practice are about the soft signs that we use.”

Lisa added: “I know the country is in crisis for help but it’s not just the elderly who need help. There are younger people who are in my position who need help too.

“It’s disgusting. I’m a burden now. Everything is Covid – people can’t come out because of Covid.

“We have turned it into the National Covid Service – not the NHS. You say Covid, everyone jumps through hoops. You say you have a gallbladder problem and people just say ah, well never mind. Take your turn.

“This situation has cost lives. It has cost me my husband’s life. It has cost his children their father’s life.

“It is so sad. He died at home on the lounge on the floor. My eldest son can’t even bear to come into the room. My heart is broken.”

She added: “We have just been left. No one has come to us and asked what do you need?

“I’m disabled with secondary progressive MS. I can’t walk.”

Lisa said she wrote to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who responded offering his condolences.

However, she said she has not received a response from Brentwood and Ongar MP Alex Burghart after also contacting him.

The office of Brentwood and Ongar MP Alex Burghart said a letter has been drafted but was not yet sent by Friday morning, after receiving a letter from Mrs King on October 18 asking him to look into the matter.

“Alex has responded in a letter dated October 28, offering his condolences to the family and asking Mrs King to get in touch with him when she felt ready to do so, to enable her to outline how she feels he can best help her and her family, and for him to make further inquiries on her behalf with the GP surgery involved as needed,” a statement said.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter