Belfast Telegraph

Second fatality probed as trolley death talks held

By Lesley Houston

The death of a second patient at Royal Victoria Hospital is being investigated by the Belfast Health Trust.

The news came as the family of a man left to die alone on a trolley in a hospital accident and emergency department were promised such a tragedy would never happen again.

The bereaved relatives of the 77-year-old man were also assured that the investigation into his death will be independent.

It has now been revealed that the trust is investigating the circumstances of the death of another patient, a woman, which occurred in January.

The assurances came after a meeting with health trust officials on Monday, when it was explained that the family will be allowed to meet with staff who were on duty on the night, March 6. The trust also told the man’s family that given the situation again, the hospital would have carried out a post-mortem examination on their father.

Since no such procedure took place, the man’s partner and family are “particularly distressed” that they do not know the exact cause of death.

The victim, who suffered from motor neurone disease, had been left unattended in the A&E department for almost 24 hours on a night so busy it was described by his partner as “chaotic”.

Staff were trying to secure him a hospital bed when he died.

Referring to the investigation into both deaths, the trust said its lines of inquiry would focus on events leading up to the deaths and how care was delivered.

John Dallat MLA, who spoke for the family after they declined to be identified, said trust officials, including the chief executive, apologised to the family and had accepted “it was a combination of failings” which led to the pensioner dying alone on the trolley.

The SDLP man said: “The family were also told that all senior doctors have been briefed and working schedules changed to focus on the radical changes which have been implemented.”

He added that the trust said no patient will ever spend more than 12 hours in a trolley wait.

Factfile

It is understood the assembled group of trust officials were asked by the family:

  • Why a patient with motor neurone disease was left unchecked for several hours;
  • Why a non-emergency ambulance team was used to transport the man;
  • Was the A&E department understaffed that night?
  • Why was there no post-mortem?
  • About the confusion of the exact time of death.
  • How contact details were lost, and why the PSNI was called to contact the man’s partner?

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