‘We never got to say goodbye’ – family’s grief as dad dies waiting for scan

Stuart John Ward
Stuart John Ward
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A FAMILY never had time to say goodbye to their terminally ill dad after he died while waiting for a scan.

Father-of-three Stuart Ward was seriously ill with cancer, which had spread from his oesophagus.

The 48-year-old was taken into Sunderland Royal Hospital with breathing difficulties on October 8 last year, but died four days later.

The hearing at Sunderland Coroner’s Court was told Mr Ward, a sheet metal worker from Southwick, Sunderland, was waiting for a CAT scan to establish if clots in his lungs were causing the shortness of breath.

But his condition became worse and he died on October 11 last year, without saying goodbye to his two daughters.

Mr Ward’s sister-in-law, Denise Bridges, a nurse, said Mr Ward’s family believe medical intervention stopped him dying with dignity. She was so concerned about his treatment that she spoke with the most senior nurse at the hospital.

She said: “What I saw was just a snapshot of care in 24 hours, and I have never seen anything like it.”

She added: “We asked for privacy for Stuart, but he died on a six-bed ward.”

Head of nursing and patient safety Judith Hunter told coroner Derek Winter she was “very concerned” about the standards of care described by Mrs Bridges and a review had been carried out of the ward where he died. It has since been split so there were more staff to beds, while nurses and healthcare assistants had been given extra training to deal with terminally ill patients.

Mrs Hunter added: “I hope we have learnt some serious lessons from Stuart’s time with us as a patient to make improvements across the system for other patients.”

Mrs Bridges also quizzed Dr Kishore Sridharan from the hospital over why Mr Ward was not given painkillers or fluids on a drip.

She said: “I am just doing this because I feel passionately about the people of Sunderland.

“Doctors and nurses should not just medicalise things but give a holistic approach to caring for people.

“We don’t have to love our patients, but we have to care for them.”

Dr Sridharan said Mr Ward, from Norton Road, was prescribed medication to treat blood clotting and was taking painkilling tablets to help with his breathing.

But he suffered a heart attack and died shortly after midnight.

Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said Mr Ward had died from bronchial pneumonia and the tumour spreading into his blood stream, although no blood clots were found.

Mr Ward leaves a partner of 34 years, Sharon, 47, and children Stuart, 24, Stephanie, 18, and Shelley, 16.

Verdict: Natural causes.