Mix-up led to death of OAP

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A COMMUNICATION blunder at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital contributed to the death of a woman from an abscess on her brain as she waited four days for a transfer to undergo emergency surgery.

David Hardwick said it felt like his sister Margaret had been “left to die”, even though a neurologist at Barnsley District General Hospital had ordered she be transferred to Sheffield “without further delay”.

Neither hospital arranged the move - each believing the other was putting the plan in place, the family’s lawyer said today.

Instead the 72-year-old remained on the ward in Barnsley until she died four days later.

David said: “It is extremely distressing to hear Margaret was left for four days without treatment which could have saved her life, all because of a basic mix-up in communication.

“It’s like they just left her to die, and we sincerely hope the NHS takes prompt action to prevent this from happening to anybody else. It just makes us angry to know Margaret’s life could, and should, have been saved.”

Miss Hardwick, from Brierley, Barnsley, was admitted to her local hospital on October 30, 2009 after collapsing at home.

Doctors initially diagnosed a minor gastric illness or virus, but after an MRI scan on November 2 radiologists said she was suffering a malignant brain tumour.

However, two days later a neurologist raised concerns the mass might be an abscess which could be life-threatening.

The decision was taken to move Miss Hardwick but a breakdown in communication between the two hospitals meant neither arranged the transfer. Five days after the mass was first discovered, further scans revealed it had grown quickly - increasing the pressure on her brain. Her condition continued to deteriorate and she died on November 8.

Ian Murray, a specialist solicitor from Irwin Mitchell, representing the Hardwick family, said: “A four day delay is totally unacceptable. This case highlights how basic errors so often have a tragic effect on the lives of patients and their families.”

David added: “Margaret’s death has left our whole family devastated. She was like a grandmother to my grandchildren and without her around there is a huge void in our lives.”

Andrew Cash, chief executive at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so sorry a genuine error in communication contributed to the tragic death of Miss Hardwick. I would like to offer our sincerest apologies to Miss Hardwick’s family although I know this in no way lessens the terrible loss they have suffered. I would also like to reassure them we have learned lessons and made substantial changes.”