Coroner writes to Health Secretary over death of pensioner in Sunderland 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.
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SUNDERLAND’s coroner is to write to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt following the death of a pensioner at the city’s Royal Hospital.

Great-grandad George Richardson was admitted to the Royal following a fall at his Southwick home on January 20 this year.

The 84-year-old, who suffered from heart problems and also had pneumonia, had a urethral catheter fitted by medics to help drain his bladder – but his condition then deteriorated during his stay.

Mr Richardson, a dad-of-four, grandad-of-11 and great-grandfather of 16, died on February 9 at the hospital, with a post-mortem examination finding that he had suffered damage to the urethra.

A two-day inquest hearing into the retired tiler’s death, held at Sunderland Coroner’s Court, found that the damage caused from the catheter being inserted into his body was a contributory factor in his death.

Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton, who carried out the post-mortem on Mr Richardson, said that ischemic heart disease was the main cause of the widower’s death, but that traumatic urethral catheterisation was a “contributing condition”.

Dr Bolton added: “I would not expect catheterisation to have caused the problems it did.”

Deputy medical director at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Sean Fenwick, admitted that there had been “a lack of clarity” around the reason for Mr Richardson’s first catheterisation, after which he needed to be re-catheterised.

Mr Fenwick added that the hospital trust has patients with catheters in for about 33,000 days each year but that following Mr Richardson’s death bosses had discussed whether a unified catheter document would improve practice, as opposed to a paper record.

He said: “If we use the IT system, if someone is admitted three months later after they had been catheterised, then we could understand why the patient was catheterised.

“One of the benefits of using a unified IT document is that it’s not only a record, but it acts as a prompt as well.”

Also giving evidence was James Green, who is married to Mr Richardson’s daughter Elaine.

He said: “We need clarity on the difference between attempt and manipulation (of the use of the catheter).”

Concluding the hearing, in which a narrative verdict was recorded, Mr Winter said: “My intention is to write to the Secretary of State of Health to draw his attention to issues which can arise. The issue of catheterisation is one of large volume, both locally and nationally, and it seems to me that lessons can be learned, not just by this trust but by other trusts to promote good practice.”

Speaking after the conclusion of the hearing, son-in-law Mr Green said: “We hope that something good will come from this.

“We feared that George was first catheterised as a matter of convenience to reduce the attention he would get.

“After being admitted, he deteriorated rapidly from January 30.

“That seems to be when the trauma took place.

“We feel that it is only right and proper that the cause of death should in part be attributed to the trauma caused by the insertion of the catheter and we would like to see in place safe systems of treatment that ensure the safety of future patients.”

A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “Mr Richardson was admitted to City Hospitals Sunderland on January 21, 2015.

“Following a period of illness, he sadly died on February 9.

“In 2009, the trust implemented a Urinary Catheterisation Policy providing guidance for all staff who are required to undertake catheterisations – this was reviewed in 2013.

“The trust continues to improve staff training and guidance in this area and will carefully consider the issues raised by the coroner during the course of this inquest.”