Hospital staff cleared of blame after death of woman in Sunderland

Lynn Ross died at Sunderland Royal Hospital last October.
Lynn Ross died at Sunderland Royal Hospital last October.

Hospital staff have been cleared of any blame over the death of a woman after being treated in Sunderland.

Lynn Ross, 59, of Dunelm Terrace, Seaham, died at Sunderland Royal Hospital in October 2016 after a blood clot caused heart failure.

An inquest yesterday heard she died just over three weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery, the latest in a number of operations and treatments in a hospital stay of just over a year.

Sunderland Senior Coroner Derek Winter was told that Miss Ross had undergone regular injections to reduce the risk of clotting, but had been refusing to have any more because of the pain they caused her.

Returning a narrative conclusion, Mr Winter found that the retired secretary died as a result of the recognised complications of surgery.

He said: “I am satisfied the clinicians and nursing staff did their utmost to identify the problem. I cannot establish any failure to provide something of a basic kind that caused or contributed to the death of Lynn.

This was not just basic care, this was complex care

Derek Winter

“On the contrary, this was not just basic care, this was complex care, which made the decision-making much more difficult.”

Pathologist Dr Ruth Bentley carried out the post-mortem examination on Miss Ross, who had first been taken into hospital because of abdominal pain and weight loss.

Dr Bentley found that the passage of a small blood clot led to heart failure, with the abdominal surgery a contributory factor, as operations increase the risk of blood clots forming.

Dr Simon Cowlam, a consultant gastroenterologist at Sunderland Royal Hospital, first treated Miss Ross in January 2015, and told the inquest that she had a history of hardening of the arteries and had undergone a bypass graft aged 41 to improve blood flow. During her year in hospital, Miss Ross had a stent fitted, but vascular surgeon Paul Dunlop told the inquest that the procedure had not ended her pain, and she later became more unwell.

The eventual abdominal surgery involved removing of an area of her bowel which had become gangrenous – meaning blood was not getting through to it. After deteriorating twice, surgeon Graham O’Dair felt Miss Ross was recovering.

He said: “She appeared to pick up quite well, and I remember thinking she was starting to recover. On the day she died, I was on annual leave, but was told she had been the best she had been.

“She catastrophically became unwell and died very rapidly.”