Colchester hospital patient 'choked to death on pill'

  • 14 December 2012
  • From the section Essex
Norman Betchley
Image caption Norman Betchley, a retired printer, was admitted to hospital with breathing problems

A nil-by-mouth patient choked to death in an Essex hospital after a pill was given to him to swallow, an inquest has heard.

Norman Betchley, 81, was in Colchester Hospital with breathing problems and died within a few seconds of the tablet being given to him in April 2009.

Ch Supt Liam Osborne told the hearing in Chelmsford on Thursday that the incident was a "terrible mistake".

The inquest was adjourned until January.

Mr Betchley was being fed by a tube into his stomach and could not take food or liquid orally, the hearing was told.

Mr Osborne, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said the case was investigated with a view to bringing a manslaughter charge against the nurse and a corporate manslaughter charge against the hospital, but concluded that the death was a terrible mistake.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take the matter further, he added.

£10,000 compensation

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Betchley's son, Stuart, said there had been an A4 "nil-by-mouth" sign on the wall above his father's hospital bed.

"No-one can say when he would have died, he was an ill man, no-one's disputing that," said Mr Betchley.

"But it's in the autopsy reports that he would not have died at that time if he had not given given that drug."

The family said it had already received £10,000 in compensation from the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

Colchester Hospital said it has since made changes to its nil-by-mouth signs to make them more prominent.

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