North East Wales

Alan Walker's death 'accidental' at Wrexham Maelor Hospital

Alan Walker and his wife, Irene Image copyright Handout
Image caption Alan Walker with his widow, Irene

The family of an 81-year-old man said their lives have been "destroyed" after he died in hospital when a feeding tube was mistakenly connected to an intravenous drip.

A coroner concluded Alan Walker's death was accidental at Wrexham Maelor Hospital in January 2014.

He said it was "more likely than not" caused by a healthcare professional.

Mr Walker's granddaughter Sarah Hallam said the family hoped the "rare incident will never happen again".

John Gittins, coroner for north Wales, east and central, said he was satisfied that steps had been taken to prevent a repeat of the immediate problems that caused the death.

He concluded that the cause of death was toxic shock caused by the connection of a feeding tube to an intravenous drip point and "although it cannot be established with certainty, it's more likely than not that it was a health care professional who did so".

Ruthin Coroner's Court had heard traces of food from the feeding tube were found to have entered the intravenous line.

Earlier on Friday, nurse James Keats, who was working on the Cunliffe Ward on the night Mr Walker was taken ill, described the moment he noticed the mixed-up tubes.

"It's the sort of thing you never see," he told the inquest.

"I've never seen it. And there was a small moment when I panicked and thought 'oh my God!'"

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Media captionAlan Walker with his widow, Irene

He said he immediately summoned help but Mr Walker, of Leeswood, near Mold, Flintshire, died on 23 January.

Mr Keats was asked by David Pojur, counsel for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), which runs the hospital: "How obviously wrong is it that a health care professional would get it mixed up?"

"You just wouldn't entertain the idea to put the two together," he said.

The inquest heard on Thursday, that Mr Walker was recovering from an operation for cancer and had been admitted with a skin infection.

'Very sad situation'

Despite initially being seriously ill, he had recovered and was expected to be released before he was struck down again on January 22.

Ms Hallam addressed BCUHB once the final evidence had been heard, saying: "I just don't want this to happen again.

"To you he was just a patient but to us we've lost a large part of our family. It's destroyed us."

In response, barrister Mr Pojur, for the health board, said what had happened "has weighed heavily" on the staff on the ward.

He said "we are very concerned" about what happened and described it as "a very sad situation".

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