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The trust which runs King George Hospital in Ilford apologised today for the first time over a patient’s death more than four years ago.
The inquest of 91-year-old veteran Stanley Babbs, who died on February 16, 2016, ended last week, concluding an “unnecessary” scan “led to a chain of events resulting in his death”.
His son Terry said the inquest took so long because it was interrupted by a police investigation into Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).
The investigation, which he said was requested by the coroner over concerns about the trust’s handling of information relating to the inquest, ended in January with no criminal charges.
Responding to improvements at the hospital following his father’s death, he said they were welcome but had “taken far, far too long”, possibly putting thousands more patients at risk.
The trust’s chief medical officer Magda Smith said today that Mr Babbs’ care at King George and the family’s “experience since his death” was “simply not good enough”.
She said: “We are very sorry that Mr Babbs’ care did not live up to our own high standards, and would like to offer reassurance that we have learned from this and continue to make improvements to ensure something similar does not happen again.”
The inquest concluded Mr Babbs died of sepsis but that “his death at that time would have been avoided” if he was not given a CT scan with contrast dye at the hospital’s radiology department.
Numerous doctors gave evidence he should never have received a scan with dye, which damaged his kidneys and hospitalised him within days, given his known health problems.
Terry said that, after “11 days in court, 21 witnesses and about three thousand pieces of evidence”, the family was pleased to have “the truth of what happened”.
He said: “He died early because of what they did, he was not bed-bound or miserable. He was an ordinary bloke living in Barking, who had his wits about him.
“It’s taken far far too long, but I think we got to where we wanted to be. The trust belatedly made some changes in August and September this year.
“In our view, it need not have taken so long had they been doing what they should as a public body, which is learning from their mistakes.
“They spent a fortune on lawyers and experts rather than just putting their hands up and saying they got it wrong, which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.”
Speaking earlier this week, he added the trust had at that time “not made one word of apology”.
According to Terry, the trust originally did not alert the coroner to begin an inquest, recording Stanley’s death as “natural causes”, and repeatedly refused to investigate.
He said: “We tried to get his medical records, we applied four times, and each time they came back with something but not all of them.
“In the end the coroner issued an order to release the records and, when they came out, you could see all the mistakes they had made.”
At the conclusion of the inquest, coroner Persaud expressed a number of concerns about the trust’s internal investigation and record-keeping, although she noted these had since improved.
She noted a document produced by the trust in 2017 differed from a copy in the radiology department’s shared computer drive and appeared to have been recently re-saved.
She also said the failure of the trust to identify either of the two radiologists who signed off on Stanley’s scan was “extremely poor medical practice”.
While both radiologists signed a paper form to approve the scan, the A4 sheets were both scanned as A5, cutting off part of the documents, and no physical copies have been produced.
One of a number of improvements made by the trust in response to Mr Babb’s death is an entirely new IT system, which it will start using next year, to remove the need for paper documents.
Dr Smith said the system will also “automatically flag any cases which do not fit within the safety guidelines” and log who has made clinical decisions.