A THURROCK family say they are still waiting for a full explanation about the death of a man who went missing from his bed at Basildon Hospital and was found dead in a toilet hours later.
And they want to know if better care might have meant he would still be alive today.
Keith Howes, 78, died on 3 February last year, days after being admitted as an emergency patient after collapsing at his home in BeechcroftAvenue,Linford.
He appeared to be making a recovery after suffering severe chest pains and was talking about leaving the hospital just hours before he died.
His final hours remain shrouded in mystery though.
In the afternoon of the day of his death he was visited by family members, including his brother, former Thurrock councillor Richard Howes, and sister-in-law Sheila who say he was in good health and high spirits.
He had been scheduled to have an x-ray to check his chest before being given permission to go home but that never happened.
Mr Howes was last seen by fellow patients on Kingswood ward at around 6pm but his absence was not spotted by staff for several hours until the alarm was raised after 10pm.
At that point Richard Howes was at his brother’s home with Keith’s disabled son, who answered a telephone call. No introduction or name was given and a simple “Is Mr Howes there?” question was asked. “No, he’s in hospital”, replied Wayne and the caller rang off.
It has since been established that the call came from the hospital – and it has been conceded that it was an inappropriate and distressing call.
Several minutes later Keith Howes’ sister, Janet, and her husband, Bernard, received a call saying Mr Howes had been found in a washroom. The couple immediately left their Aveley home from the hospital arriving around midnight to be told Mr Howes had passed away.
It has been established that Mr Howes body was discovered “collapsed and unresponsive” by staff after a search. An attempt to resuscitate him was made but he was declared dead at 11.01pm.
In the months that have followed the death of Mr Howes – a popular and well known bowler represented England all over the world and is described as a very fit man – the family say meetings with hospital officials and letters have not enlightened them as to what actually happened. And why a patient went missing and unnoticed for so long.
Richard Howes said: “We are very unhappy. We do not know all the answers and no-one seems to have been held to account.
“At what level has Keith’s death been investigated and has there been a cover-up? The hospital said he died of natural causes and so there was no inquest, but we want to know if he might have been saved if he had been discovered earlier – and we want to know why he was not missed.
“He had had a drain taken from his chest earlier and that made him feel much better, so much so he was asking to be let home but he was told he had to have an x-ray.
“He was due to have that on the day he died but it never happened. Why not? Would it have spotted the problem? We don’t know and we aren’t being told.”
A hospital report says that Mr Howes died from cardiac tamponade, haemopericarddium and leaking dissecting aneurysm thoracic aorta.
This is a condition which needs to be rapidly diagnosed to prevent death – which is why Mr Howes’ family are so concerned that an x- ray which was scheduled did not take place. They want to know if it could have meant a lifesaving diagnosis.
They also want to know if emergency treatment had been given, might he have survived instead of dying alone on a washroom floor?
In a letter to the Howes family, Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals Trust chairman Ian Luder concedes the hospital failed to carry out the x- ray, but cannot explain why.
Healsoappearstohavemixedup the scheduled time for the x-ray, apologising that it had not taken place on the 3rd, but at the same time saying it was scheduled for the 4th!
He wrote: “An x-ray was requested for Mr Howes at lunchtime on 4 February and there is a record of the request being delivered to x-ray. Unfortunately there is no documented reason as to why this was not undertaken and I can only apologise that it has not been possible to provide you with additional information.”
Further apologies from Mr Luder include acknowledgement that the hospital were wrong to contact
Keith Howes disabled son and a list of changes and improvements to hospital policies – though Mr Luder concedes: “I do appreciate it must be of little comfort to you and your family.”
Mr Luder’s consoling words do appear to offer little comfort, with Richard Howes describing some of his comments as “rubbish.”
“There is no detail in what we are being told, just that things have changed,” he said.
“Well the Enquirer reported last week on another shocking case of apparent lack of care and concern at the hospital, we have had Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s investigation which shows a long and protracted list of deaths through lack of care.
“It just goes on and on and they don’t seem interested in explaining to the public just what is actually happening.
“There is a complete lack of responsibility and accountability at Basildon Hospital.
“In the case of my brother’s death clearly the hospital is at fault and it seems bizarre and unreasonable and smacks of a cover up that no public investigation has to date been made into the circumstances surrounding his death.
“We have been offered bits of information but we are not satisfied and will not be until the full story of how and why Keith had to die.
“He leaves a disabled son and a family who want answers about how he came to die in such appalling circumstances through a lack of care which has been acknowledged but not explained by the hospital.”
A statement from the hospital’s Senior Communications Manager, Luenne Featherstone, says: “Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is very sorry that Mr Howes’ family still have questions they feel are unanswered about the circumstances surrounding his death.
“The Coroner’s post mortem report determined that Mr Howes’ death was due to natural causes and that it was not necessary to hold an inquest.
“The Trust carried out an internal investigation to ensure that we had gathered all the facts about the care received by Mr Howes and identified where any lessons could be learnt. The outcome of this internal investigation was shared in full with the family at a meeting last year.
“We have since implemented a number of improvements, including more regular contact with families during an internal investigation process, and the introduction of two-hourly checks on every patient.
“Clare Panniker, the Trust’s Chief Executive is happy to meet with Mr Howes’ family to discuss any ongoing concerns they may have.”