Patient was ‘left to die’ by ‘do not resuscitate’ blunder

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A pensioner feels he was ‘left to die’ by Pilgrim Hospital after a misdiagnosis meant he was ‘denied resuscitation’ or access to intensive care.

Alan Burt was left in a medical assessment unit at Pilgrim Hospital for more than 20 hours after a heart attack at home – despite guidelines suggesting he should be admitted immediately, and doctors said they would not revive him if he suffered a further attack.

They said he was unlikely to recover after suffering extreme brain damage, but when a concerned nurse contacted the cardiology department it was revealed not to be the case and he was given treatment which led to his full recovery.

The 76-year-old said: “It’s ridiculous. The guidelines say that a cardiac patient of my age and in my condition is supposed to be taken to intensive care. It seems the idea of keeping me in there was that they had decided I was on the way out. It is against the Hippocratic oath.

“I will never go to Pilgrim under any circumstances.”

The hospital has since admitted there is a “lack of awareness” about the guidelines surrounding cases such as Mr Burt’s, and apologised for a catalogue of other errors in his care, including from nurses. Doctors maintain the correct decisions were made at the time.

Mr Burt, of Horbling, was unconscious when he was taken to hospital, and his wife Delia was told a clinical decision had been made to care for him, but not to revive him if he suffered another cardiac arrest.

Mrs Burt said: “It was devastating. They asked would I be happy with that, saying he was at the end of his life and I should let him die with dignity, but Alan didn’t want to die with dignity or anything else. He was completely fine that morning, but between them they had decided to let him die. It’s very worrying.”

The pair have now written to their MP Nick Boles, as well as the ombudsman for health.

Mr Burt spent 22 and a half hours in A&E and the medical assessment unit before a nurse in the department contacted cardiac sister Janine Rennie-Lovely, who rang the head of the cardiology unit and got the decision not to resuscitate reversed. He was then, finally, taken up to the cardiology department. His family discharged him from hospital three days later, as he was very distressed by the situation and his wife said she was concerned he would suffer another heart attack if he stayed.

He recovered within a week –with no sign of brain damage.

Mrs Burt added: “The doctor made completely the wrong diagnosis and took completely the wrong actions.

“If it wasn’t for Nurse Rennie-Lovely he could have died.

“I wonder how many others they have let die.”

A spokesman for Pilgrim Hospital said: “We would like to apologise to Mr Burt and his family for their concerns and some shortcomings in the standard of care provided, particularly around effective communication.

“An investigation into the case has led to a detailed clinical governance review which we believe will help to produce some real and lasting improvements in patient care.”