Saturday, November 08, 2008

Grandfather dies after SIX NHS doctors fail to spot he had a broken back

Nobody cares about you when you get into the hands of the NHS. Getting you off their hands is the main priority

A grandfather died in agony after six doctors at two hospitals failed to spot that he had broken his spine. Neville Caplan, 70, fell while babysitting for his son and was taken to casualty. But he was sent home with painkillers and antibiotics without the injury being detected. A few days later, in worsening pain, he was admitted to his local hospital, but again doctors failed to realise how badly hurt he was. By the time scans finally revealed a broken vertebra he was too ill for lifesaving surgery, and he died three days later.

Today, his family said they were horrified to learn how his injury had been overlooked for so long, adding that they were 'devastated by such an unnecessary death'. They said they would be seeking compensation for his ordeal.

Mr Caplan, a retired pastry chef, was described as 'fit and healthy'. A keen walker, he cared for his wife, Cynthia. He slipped on the stairs while at his son Jeff's house in Hale, Greater Manchester. At Wythenshawe Hospital, he was X-rayed and diagnosed with mild pneumonia, broken ribs and a sprained ankle then sent home.

Mr Caplan died four years ago. This week, an inquest heard that although he was seen by three doctors, one of them a radiologist, no one asked about his spondylitis, a long-term spinal condition that made him vulnerable to back injuries. When his X-rays were re-examined and found to be 'technically inadequate', they were not redone. Meanwhile, Mr Caplan was back at his home in Prestwich, spending his days sleeping on a chair in increasing pain.

After five days, he was admitted to North Manchester General Hospital complaining of breathing difficulties and pressure on his spinal cord. Again he was seen by a radiologist and two other doctors who all failed to spot the spinal injury. It was not until around two weeks later that the fracture was detected by scans, but by then he was too ill for surgery. Mr Caplan died on December 4, 2004. The cause of death was a third bout of bronchopneumonia, caused by his spine and chest injuries.

Mr Caplan's son told the inquest in Manchester that nurses at the second hospital 'dropped' the pensioner while trying to guide him, exacerbating his spinal fracture.

Coroner Nigel Meadows asked spinal surgeon Saeed Mohammed, an independent expert, whether he agreed that Mr Caplan could have been saved if he had been correctly diagnosed and operated upon sooner. He replied: 'Correct.'

Dr Darren Walter, a consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital, said that chest X-rays on the day of Mr Caplan's accident would have been unlikely to have revealed the spinal injury, even if they had been clear. Dr Howard Klass, a consultant at North Manchester General, said: 'There was nothing clinically for us to suspect that he had a fracture or spinal cord compression.'

Recording a narrative verdict, the coroner said: 'Everyone who treated him tried to do the very best for him. It was unfortunate that the original fracture was not diagnosed, nor the history of spondylitis.'

Afterwards Jeff Caplan, 51, said: 'My mother, sisters and myself are devastated by such an unnecessary death. He should still be here. 'It's now in the hands of our lawyers. Compensation would be the logical next step.'

Wythenshawe Hospital said it apologised to Mr Caplan's family for the fact that his care had fallen below the high standard to which he was entitled. North Manchester General declined to comment because of the legal action.


Canadian hospitals re-using syringes

A third health region in Saskatchewan said Tuesday it has been reusing syringes, but also suggested that patients aren't at great risk of infection. The Sun Country Health Region, in the southeastern corner of Saskatchewan, said syringes were reused occasionally in the operating room at Weyburn General Hospital to inject medication into an intravenous bag.

"There is an extremely low-level risk to any patient. The risk is so low that follow-up testing is not recommended at this time," according to a health region news release. "The set-up of the bag and intravenous tubing results in fluid being injected into the intravenous line. There is very little risk of the syringe being exposed to a patient's body fluids." A fresh syringe is supposed to be used each time to avoid any blood-borne diseases from one patient possibly being transferred into the blood of another.

Sun Country officials, who could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday, made the discovery during a review ordered last week by Saskatchewan public health. The latest announcement follows word last week that syringes were being reused at a hospital in Lloydminster, a city that straddles the boundary with Alberta, and within a mental health outpatient program in the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region. Those cases came to light after Alberta health officials announced that up to 2,700 patients would be tested for hepatitis and HIV after syringes were reused at a health clinic in High Prairie.

Since 2001, the Center for Disease Control in the United States has identified several hepatitis C outbreaks associated with syringe reuse. It was a common practice in the 1990s to reuse syringes but was phased out when the outbreaks started. A federal public health spokeswoman said in an e-mail Friday that the federal government would be convening a working group on the issue. [Where's the need for more talk?]


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