Dying man pleaded 'help me, help me'

NURSES tried to hail doctors at least four times over a period of almost three hours when a patient's condition rapidly deteriorated - and they only turned up as a crash team was sent to revive him after a heart attack.

NURSES tried to hail doctors at least four times over a period of almost three hours when a patient's condition rapidly deteriorated - and they only turned up as a crash team was sent to revive him after a heart attack.

The family of retired sales executive Kenneth Knapp have hit out at the care he received in the lead-up to his death at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on January 19, last year. He had been on life-support for five days after suffering cardiac arrest which starved his brain of oxygen.

An inquest in Bury heard how Mr Knapp, 80, of Betty Cocker Grove in Sudbury, had gone into hospital on January 12 with abdominal pain. He had a history of abdominal problems and, unknown to him, also had an enlarged heart.

On June 14, Mr Knapp's condition worsened. He was vomiting, was pale and his vital signs became unstable, the inquest was told.


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The manager of ward G5, Sister Maxine Ship, who was not present during the incident, told how a doctor was first “bleeped” at 2pm that day.

When the nurse tending to Mr Knapp again bleeped for a doctor she was instructed to “liaise with surgeons” the next day.

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At 4pm, the nurse bleeped doctors once again. Mr Knapp vomited, his condition grew still worse, a doctor was called at 4.30pm and he went into cardiac arrest at 4.40pm.

Ms Ship said the on-call doctor was one of those bleeped and the nurse was referred to the surgical team. She said this should not have happened because the ward was a medical ward rather than a surgical ward.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean: “It seems to almost beggar belief that somebody could think he was a surgical patient if he was on a medical ward. We don't have a doctor until two hours and 40 minutes later. He (Mr Knapp) arrests and a crash team was called.”

Jane Knapp, Mr Knapp's widow, told how she visited her husband on the afternoon of June 14 and found him in a poorly state.

She said she had asked the nurse to bleep for a doctor and told how her husband's last words to her were “help me, help me”.

Dr Shubhada Sinha, consultant in elderly medicine at the hospital, had seen Mr Knapp when he was first admitted and she said he was reasonably well with no “evidence of serious pathology”.

Although she was not present when a colleague of hers was bleeped, she said her understanding was that her colleague was dealing with somebody in apparently greater medical need at the time: “In an ideal world doctors would see everybody as soon as possible. However, they have to prioritise who they see next.”

West Suffolk's consultant pathologist Dr Sheila Purdy said Mr Knapp died of respiratory failure.

Dr Dean recorded a narrative verdict that Mr Knapp died of complications following aspiration caused by vomiting.

He said the hospital had introduced a new emergency outreach team, staffed by paramedics from 8am until 8pm, which provided extra cover at weekends and a ward-based medical system which could help prevent similar situations arising in the future.

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