THE family of a man who died after contracting a rare infection following colorectal surgery at Hinchingbrooke Hospital believe he was let down by his post-operative care.

Derek Keetch, 64, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April last year and was admitted to the colorectal unit at the Huntingdon hospital on May 31. Dr Bassan Bekdash removed part of his colon the same day.

At 12.40am on June 3, three days after his operation, Mr Keetch complained of severe abdominal pain and was moved to the intensive treatment unit (ITU). In the afternoon he required surgery to fix a 1cm leak in his bowel.

The former Royal Engineer, who lived at Bramble Close, Yaxley, was treated for an infection but, despite showing signs of recovery, a week after the second operation, on June 19, Mr Keetch died.

Michael McNicholas, his son-in-law, said staff on Juniper Ward had failed to notice Mr Keetch's condition.

"We have no problem with the operation but we do with the post operative care. There were systematic problems with nursing care on the ward.

"If we were able to see it while we were on the ward, how could the nursing management not have seen it and taken action? The hospital has failed in its clinical governance."

Mr McNicholas, who represented the family at an inquest into the death, raised concerns about the poor keeping of medical records, including vital notes of when antibiotics and fluids were given.

The inquest into Mr Keetch's death on Monday and Tuesday at Cambridge County Court ruled that Mr Keetch died from an unforeseen and rare complication during the course of his treatment for an anastomotic leak, itself a rare complication.

Dr Martin Goddard, who carried out the post mortem examination, told the inquest that Mr Keetch contracted a rare fungal infection aspergillosis while on the ITU, caused, probably, by sepsis due to the leak.

Dr Anthony Brooks, lead clinician on the ITU, said in 25 years at Hinchingbrooke he had never seen a case of aspergillosis.

He said: "What impact the delay in treatment had is extraordinarily hard to say and it would be a be a guess."

Mr Hisham Abdel-Rahman, medical director, said: "As a clinician, my number one priority is patient safety. We have apologised to the Keetch family and would like to express again our deep sympathy and condolences.

"Since February we have invested extra resources, people and energy into transforming our colorectal service. Patients can be assured that our service is safe and delivering high quality care.

"We have resolved to draw a line under past problems, and now aim to build a centre of excellence that will deliver patient satisfaction rates and clinical outcomes among the best in the region."

A review into the colorectal unit was carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons last November following "dysfunction in the surgical team" and a breakdown in staff relationships which led to the deaths of Jayne Smith, 51, from Somersham, in September 2010 and 67-year-old Patricia Spooner, of Huntingdon, a month later.