Sepsis not spotted after Hinchingbrooke surgery

I HAVE followed your coverage of events at Hinchingbrooke Hospital with great interest and, following the announcement of a review into their colorectal services, have felt compelled to write.

In February 2010, at the age of 71, my father was diagnosed with rectal cancer. It was caught early and had not spread. The prognosis was therefore optimistic and Dad went in for the operation on March 26 hoping that three or four months later the procedure could be reversed.

Unfortunately his health deteriorated significantly following the operation, and four weeks later he suffered massive internal bleeding. He was transferred back into hospital, finally ending up in the critical care unit. He underwent a second operation – but, tragically, severe sepsis had already set in and he passed away on April 28.

My father was from a medical background and was under no illusion of the possible complications following such major surgery.

However, during that final month no cause for his constant agony or sickness was identified, and there seemed to be a lack of communication between the hospital staff, the stoma nurses and his GP. His GP conducted a short home visit a few days before his death and, despite what we now know to be classic symptoms of sepsis, did not refer him back to Hinchingbrooke.

The promised home stoma nurse visited Dad once in hospital after his operation, but never appeared again and was completely unaware of Dad’s passing.

Seeing my Dad suffer and deteriorate so dramatically was heartbreaking – and my mum is still finding it hard to cope with. The only shining light in the whole agony was Hinchingbrooke’s critical care unit. The staff acted superbly and their care of both my father and our family members was something we will always be grateful for.

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The coroner asked for an inquest into Dad’s death, which took place in September. The verdict was that he died from a recognised complication following surgical intervention. This we accept, but we can’t accept that problems were not picked up earlier.

I know that spotting exact causes can be difficult, but surely complications such as sepsis are so common that, if a patient is not recovering at an expected rate, close scrutiny of that patient in a hospital environment should be paramount.

I am pleased that a review is being conducted at Hinchingbrooke as I would not wish anyone to suffer as our family has. At last there is acknowledgement of a problem – I just hope that a satisfactory solution can be found.