Hospital criticised in brain death tragedy

A FATHER died from “devastating” brain injuries just eight days after he was given the all-clear following a ten-minute hospital assessment.

Dave Gooderham

A FATHER died from “devastating” brain injuries just eight days after he was given the all-clear following a ten-minute hospital assessment.

A top neurosurgeon yesterday questioned the actions of West Suffolk Hospital after a junior doctor failed to see Roger Riddleston for more than two hours and then dismissed him as being drunk after he was found lying in a town centre road.

Mr Riddleston, who lives in Sudbury, was sent home but within days had returned to hospital where he later died from bleeding to the brain.

An inquest into his death yesterday heard that greater observation of his condition in the first instance and a CT scan might have saved his life.

Bosses at the Bury St Edmunds hospital vowed after the hearing to learn lessons from the tragedy.

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Chris Bown, hospital chief executive, said: “As a result of this case, we have reviewed our working practices and are now giving our junior doctors additional training in the best way to diagnose and treat anyone who is brought into the hospital with a reduced level of consciousness or confusion.

“We have also introduced new guidance, which states that all patients with confusion which could be caused by a variety of reasons should be admitted for further observation and investigation, which may include undergoing a CT scan.

“This expands on our previous policy and will greatly reduce the possibility of a similar event happening in the future. We wish to extend our sincere condolences to Mr Riddleston's family.”

The inquest heard that national guidelines suggested there should only be a ten-minute gap between a patient receiving triage and an initial assessment by a doctor.

But Mr Riddleston was made to wait more than two hours with just one junior doctor working during a four-hour night shift at the hospital.

Despite vomiting three times, he did not have a CT scan and was sent home following the ten-minute assessment by the doctor but his condition worsened within 24 hours.

He died at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, on April 23, 2007, and consultant pathologist Dr Stephanie Pursglove , who conducted the post mortem, said that Mr Riddleston had a hairline crack on his frontal lobe and haemorrhaging into the brain which was also swollen.

Peter Hutchinson, consultant neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke's, said: “I think Mr Riddleston should have had a CT scan. With the optimum treatment, the brain swelling would have been better controlled and his survival chances would have been better.”

The inquest heard that Mr Riddleston, who lived in Hillside Road, had his heart, liver and kidney removed for organ donation.

Concluding the inquest at Bury St Edmunds yesterday, Greater Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean described the incident as a “very sad chain of events”.

Giving a narrative verdict, Mr Dean ruled that Mr Riddleston died from complications following a head injury.