Coroner to investigate ‘unnatural’ death of pensioner at Sunderland hospital

Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.

Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.

  • Sunderland Coroner wants to know if “lessons have continued to be learned” at Sunderland Royal Hospital after similar death
  • George Richardson died of a heart attack but death suspected to be “an unnatural event”
  • Family pay tribute to much-loved great-grandfather who loved budgerigars
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A CORONER is to investigate the death of a much-loved great-grandfather in a Sunderland hospital which echoed another patient tragedy.

George Richardson, 84, died on February 9, after he had a transurethral catheter inserted at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

George Richardson, 84, of Edward Burdis Street, Silksworth, who died on February 9, 2015, after having a catheter inserted at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

George Richardson, 84, of Edward Burdis Street, Silksworth, who died on February 9, 2015, after having a catheter inserted at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

It comes six years after an inquest heard how Vincent Morris, 75, died after a bungled procedure at the same hospital in 2006, which saw a a female catheter inserted instead of a male one.

Now Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter says he will look at whether “lessons have continued to be learned” at the hospital following Mr Morris’s death.

Hospital bosses have also confirmed they are carrying out an internal inquiry into Mr Richardson’s death.

Mr Winter has now opened an inquest into the death of Mr Richardson, a former slater and tiler, of Edward Burdis Street, Southwick.

George was a quiet, astute man who was small in stature at only 5ft, but he had a big heart

George Richardson’s daughter Elaine Green and her husband James

A post-mortem examination carried out by a Home Office pathologist, revealed Mr Richardson died of a heart attack with transurethral catheterisation being a contributing factor.

“Given the circumstances of Mr Richardson’s death, I have reasonable cause to suspect the death was an unnatural event,” Mr Winter said.

He added that following the earlier case, he needed to understand better why Mr Richardson needed to be catheterised at all.

Mr Winter said he would look to see whether the death required him to make a ‘Rule 28’ report if it appears there is a risk of other deaths occurring in similar circumstances.

Vincent Morris, who died September 12, 2006, at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Vincent Morris, who died September 12, 2006, at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

That report is then sent to the people or organisations who are in a position to take action to reduce this risk. They must reply within 56 days to say what action they plan to take.

“We’ve been here once before on similar matters,” Mr Winter told the inquest at Sunderland Coroner’s Court. “I dealt with another male catheterisation in 2009, where there were to be policy changes.

“I will look at Mr Richardson’s death and whether I exercise my powers to make a Rule 28 direction, whether I raise concerns.

“I will be very interested in any protocol changes since 2009 and whether these lessons have continued to be learned, especially with regards to the training of medical staff.”

Bev Frankland, representing City Hospitals, said the trust has been conducting an internal inquiry in the wake of Mr Richardson’s death, as part of its standard procedures.

She said this investigation would be concluded within the next 28 days, and that statements from medical staff would be available in seven days.

Ms Frankland said: “We have reviewed that and we have a report as to the actions taken as a result of that.”

The full inquest was provisionally scheduled for May 11 and will take two days.

The coroner will hear evidence from 18 medical staff and the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination.

Mr Morris died of urethral haemorrhaging and breathing in his own vomit in September 2006, just hours before he was due to be discharged having made an astonishing recovery from a massive stroke.

Mr Winter, at that time recorded a narrative verdict, now known as a conclusion, and asked for measures to be put in place to prevent other deaths.

Mr Richardson’s family paid tribute to the “active” pensioner who had a “big heart”.

“George was a quiet, astute man who was small in stature at only 5ft, but he had a big heart,” said daughter Elaine Green and her husband James.

“He spent his working life as professional slater and tiler.

“He was a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He enjoyed the simple things in life such as growing tomatoes and grapes in his greenhouse.

“He also bred budgerigars as a hobby. He pursued these hobbies until his untimely death.

“He always kept himself active despite his age. He will be sadly missed by his family and friends.”