South West Wales

Man's surgery wait death 'avoidable', says ombudsman

Gareth Lewis Jones

A patient died while waiting nearly a year for heart surgery because of unacceptable waiting times for tests, a watchdog has said.

Gareth Lewis Jones, from Neath Port Talbot, who had adult congenital heart disease (ACHD), died in March 2013 shortly before his operation was due.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board also failed to warn him about symptoms of deterioration to watch out for.

The health board said several important changes had since been put in place.

Following Mr Jones' death, his sister Sadie complained to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales about the time he waited for tests and said the board failed to properly advise her on symptoms, which indicated his condition was getting worse.

'Lack of urgency'

The ombudsman found Mr Jones had waited nearly twice the recommended time for surgery and the health board failed to warn the family of symptoms which would have alerted them to the fact he needed urgent medical treatment in the days before his death.

He also found there had been previous near misses with patients waiting for this type of surgery which should have prompted the health board to ensure every possible action was taken to minimise the risk of harm to ACHD patients.

There was an apparent lack of urgency for treatment for ACHD patients within the health board as a whole, the investigation found.

Ombudsman Nick Bennett said: "On the balance of probabilities, had Mr X [Gareth Lewis Jones] received treatment earlier, it would have saved his life. The Welsh Government Referral to Treatment (RTT) target is 26 weeks.

"It is completely unacceptable that he waited nearly twice this time.

"I am pleased that the health board has agreed to my recommendations and I welcome steps that it is taking to address waiting times for patients with ACHD; however it is sadly too late for Mr X to benefit from any such improvements."

ABMU health board said: "We would like to take this opportunity to apologise once more to the family of Mr X and offer our sincere condolences for their loss.

"We fully accept the recommendations made by the ombudsman, and can give assurances that several important changes have been put in place over the last three years."

The statement said surgery continued to be offered at a Bristol hospital, as had been the case with Mr Jones, but added: "The management and processes supporting these patients have now been considerably tightened, and access to pre-surgical tests within Wales much improved."

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