Medical negligence contributed towards "tragic" death of Sheffield mum, inquest rules

There was a "missed opportunity" to get Natasha into hospital earlier, the coroner said.
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Medical negligence meant that a woman who died in an operating theatre "would likely" have survived, if the right treatment had been provided sooner.

Today (22 Sept) an inquest into the death of Natasha Hewitt came to an end, after the 35-year-old died in the operating theatre of Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital in December last year.

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Natasha had gone to a walk-in centre after a week of headaches, and after a full examination was treated for a left ear infection. However, multiple blood clots developed in her brain, and despite surgery to remove them she died on 17 December.

Natasha, Nick and Harry Hewitt. (Picture: SWNS)Natasha, Nick and Harry Hewitt. (Picture: SWNS)
Natasha, Nick and Harry Hewitt. (Picture: SWNS)

Yesterday, the inquest heard that if Natasha had been placed on blood thinning medication before she ended up in hospital, the outcome "could have been different".

At Sheffield Medico-Legal Centre in Watery Street, family members paid tribute to a kind-hearted woman with a "wicked sense of humour".

In a statement, husband Nick said: "I first met Natasha in 2007 when we worked at a bar together.

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"In April 2009 we went travelling to New Zealand for three years. We had amazing adventures and got engaged out there.

"Natasha was a beautiful soul and a kind-hearted person."

A second family tribute described her as a "beautiful, kind-hearted and loving" person.

"She is missed so terribly by everyone," it added. "She was taken so quickly and tragically."

In a call to the 111 service, Natasha had said the pain she was experiencing was "like getting hit by a brick". But the inquest heard how inaccuracies in the 111 report meant she didn't get the treatment she needed.

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GP Michael Taylor, who reviewed her case when she phone her local surgery, said: "I was told she [Natasha] had phoned 111 after going to the walk-in centre the previous day. Their report said there was no severe headache at the onset.

"I went into Natasha's notes - that led me in the direction of a bad ear infection. At the time it seemed probable to be due to a combination of painkillers and antibiotics. There was nothing that led me away from this.

"In this case, I wish I had picked up the telephone."

After hearing the tributes and final pieces of evidence, assistant coroner Katie Dickinson retired before returning with her conclusions, ruling that there was medical negligence in Natasha's treatment.

She said: "Cranial venous sinus thrombosis is very rare - it's difficult to say when it started. I heard from two witnesses that time is of the essence when treating this thrombosis.

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"If anticoagulation [blood thinning] medication had been given on 14 or 15 December, this would likely have been effective.

"In this case, Natasha was in a dependent position. There was a failure to provide basic medical care - evidence was heard from medical practicioners that had medical treatment been provided, she would likely have survived.

"There was a missed opportunity to send Natasha to hospital earlier for diagnosis and treatment, which was contributed to by negligence."

Following Natasha Hewitt’s death her husband, Nick, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help secure answers as to what happened to her at the inquest.

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After the inquest concluded, Nick, aged 42, and his legal team have issued the following statements.

Rosie Charlton, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Nick, said after the hearing: “This is a truly tragic case and Nick and the rest of Natasha’s family are traumatised by her death and the circumstances surrounding it.

“Nick has had a number of questions and concerns about the events that unfolded in the lead up to Natasha’s death. Worryingly, the inquest has validated those concerns, identifying issues in the care Natasha received before her admission to hospital.

“Blood clots are very dangerous and it’s vital that medical professionals are aware of their signs. Early recognition and treatment significantly increase the chances of survival.

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“Sadly it’s too late for Natasha and her family. We join them in calling for lessons to be learned from what happened to her to improve patient safety.

“In the meantime we continue to support Nick at this distressing time to try and help him come to terms with his loss the best he can.”

In a statement issued through his legal team at Irwin Mitchell, Nick, who is now bringing up his and Natasha’s two-year-old son, Harry, said: “Natasha was the most loving and caring wife I could ever wish for. She was kind, funny and intelligent. She was my best friend and she and Harry made my life complete.

“Seeing her in the last week of her life and the pain she went through was horrendous. Each day her condition got worse but the severity of her condition wasn’t fully appreciated and I felt powerless to help.

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“It was only when Natasha was admitted to hospital did it seem like action was taken and her condition was treated seriously.

“Seeing Natasha slip away in front of me is something I don’t think I’ll ever get over. We had so many hopes and dreams for the future but these will now only remain dreams which we’ll never get to fulfil.

“The hardest thing to try and come to terms with is how Harry has been deprived of his loving mum. It breaks my heart that she won’t get to see him grow up and celebrate milestones in life such as starting school, learning to ride his bike or passing his exams. Despite this Harry will grow up knowing how much his mummy loved him and how proud she would be of him.

“Natasha was one of the world’s good people and didn’t deserve to die, especially in the way she did.

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“All I can hope for now is that by speaking out and raising awareness of what she went through, care improvements are made. I wouldn’t wish the hurt and pain our family have been left to face on anyone.”