Coroner calls for improvements at hospital after elderly man dies in ‘poor circumstances’

Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Sunderland Royal Hospital.

A coroner has called for improvements after an elderly man was released from hospital late at night.

South Tyneside Coroner, Terence Carney, found that Norman Elliott, 89, died of natural causes but the fact he was discharged from Sunderland Royal Hospital at 11pm has angered his family.

Pathologist Dr Clive Bloxham said Mr Elliott died as a result of bronchopneumonia, metastatic carcinoma of the bladder, (terminal cancer) with contributing factors of ischaemic heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The inquest heard how Mr Elliott died on August 2, 2015 at South Tyneside Hospital, four days after being discharged from Sunderland Royal Hospital on July 29, and taken to the Stapleton House Nursing Home, Jarrow,

Mr Elliott was scheduled for discharge on July 29, but - because of a miscommunication between staff - no ambulance was booked.

He was eventually taken to the home at 11pm.

Related: Hospital discharged terminally ill man at 11pm – inquest hears he died just days later from pneumonia

Beverley Frankland, risk and inquest manager at City Hospital’s Sunderland, apologised to the family at the hearing.

She said: “The trust has been very clear in giving unreserved apologies to the family for the time of discharge.

“The timing of the discharge has to be flexible in acute trusts, but we wouldn’t want patients going home late at night, however there are some situations where that does have to happen.”

Mr Carney said: “I am going to write to the Trust to recommend that, as part of the discharge process, there is an efficient plan, from the point of assessment to the point of discharge.”

Mr Elliott’s son, Norman, said he hoped the circumstances surrounding his father’s death wouldn’t happen to anyone else.

He said: “I think the coroner has been fair. He was always going to die, but it was in poor circumstances.

“If Sunderland Royal learn form this then something good has come from it.”

A City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said: “We would like to offer our condolences to the family of Mr Elliott. 
“As a result of the circumstances relating to Mr Elliott’s discharge from hospital, steps have been taken to thoroughly investigate our practices in respect of patient transport and we will continue to revise and improve our systems to ensure the best possible patient experience.”