Investigation into hospital death

AN INVESTIGATION is underway today into why a man was left in his Ipswich hospital bed without medical attention in the last 30 minutes before his death.

AN INVESTIGATION is underway today into why a man was left in his Ipswich hospital bed without medical attention in the last 30 minutes before his death.

Greater Suffolk coroner Peter Dean ordered the internal investigation to be held by Ipswich Hospital during the inquest into 74-year-old John Foster's death.

Mr Foster, who had prostate cancer, was taken to Heath Road hospital on December 23 last year after collapsing and having breathing difficulties.

Following three operations to insert a temporary pacemaker, Mr Foster was found doubled up in pain on the floor after his family had begged staff in another room to save him.

Although treated over night for a heart condition it was the 30 minutes delay in attention before his death at around 7pm on Christmas Eve that prompted the family to request a postmortem and inquest.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Foster's wife Eve said: "I came here today to get some closure over the whole event and don't feel I have got that at all. I am pleased there will be an investigation but have already had to wait for 11 months and now have to wait even longer to find out what happened.

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"My husband was a decent man who worked up until his death and did not deserve to die in pain. The family are still both devastated and puzzled about the scene of events that Christmas Eve."

The inquest heard that Mr Foster had undergone three operations to fit a temporary pacemaker as the first two had not worked.

When he returned from the final operation, hospital staff had been in another room with Mr Foster's family explaining about his condition.

But by the time they got back to his bedside Mr Foster was on the floor.

At the inquest, Mrs Foster, of Colneis Road, Felixstowe, said: "It wasn't so much about him dying, because we all knew he was, it was about the gap in time where we were begging for someone to do something and by the time he did get drugs he had died."

The inquest heard that the doctor who did the final operation was not with him from the end of the operation until the final minutes before his death 30 minutes later. He said he had had commitments to other patients and could not say what other medical assistance was offered between this time.

Dr Che Wan Lee said: "The operation was finished by 5.20pm and at 6.15pm I was informed the wire (pacemaker) had failed.

"The patient had been found on the floor while the staff had been with the family. I went to see him shortly afterwards when the family was around the bed. He was short of breath. His fluid level was up and there was noise coming from his lungs. I could not find a pulse."

A puncture was later found in Mr Foster's heart from the pacemaker wire and the heart had flooded with blood from the transfusion.

Dr Norman Irvine, senior cardiologist at Ipswich Hospital, told the coroner's court the perforation was most likely to have taken place as the electric volts from the pacemaker eroded the heart and not from force as the wire was inserted. He said the heart was likely to have flooded when the wire was taken out to be replaced and it would have been very difficult to stop this from happening.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean ruled that Mr Foster died from complications following necessary medical procedures.

He said: "This inquest has shown a difficult and complex set of decisions made by medical staff.

"There clearly became a point when things became serious very quickly and it appears once this chain of events had started there was an inevitable outcome. The issue of concern is from when he was found on the floor to when things happened with Dr Lee.

"We prefer the hospital take issue with these concerns and hold an internal investigation to see if they can prevent this from happening in future procedures."

Ipswich Hospital would not comment on the case.

N Have you or a loved one been treated in a similar way? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

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