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Birmingham hospital staff missed signs that led to fatality

15th January 2009

The family of a retired medical secretary who died after “warning signs” were missed by medics at a Birmingham hospital will launch a legal battle for compensation.

Healthy Shirley Kane was diagnosed with a small bowel obstruction at City Hospital, in Winson Green, after collapsing with abdominal pain after a walking holiday in the Lake District.

Birmingham coroner’s court heard over 48 hours when the 71-year-old’s condition deteriorated on Ward D17, staff missed tell-tale signs of a dangerous twisted bowel, a doctor misdiagnosed food poisoning and nurses did not keep up observations.

Her life-threatening condition went unnoticed, but when staff realised the extent of Mrs Kane’s condition, an emergency operation was ordered two days after her admission.

Surgeons cut out six feet of gangrenous bowel – but the patient never regained consciousness and died three weeks later on October 5, 2007.

Junior doctor Matthew Idle, doing night shift on his own six weeks after qualifying, gave evidence he failed to pick up symptoms when alerted to Mrs Kane as he was busy, did not want to wake her and prescribed her without checking her notes.

Mrs Kane lived in Billesley and worked at the former Sorrento Women’s Hospital before retiring to Ross on Wye with husband James.

Widower James, a retired engineer draftsman, aged 73, said: “The family plans legal action. Not for the money, but because it is the only way to make the hospital take notice.”

Birmingham coroner Aidan Cotter said he plans to write to hospital overseeing body Monitor urging it to inform every trust chief executive on what happened. Mr Cotter recorded a narrative verdict Mrs Kane died following major surgery and added: “Over the 48 hours Mrs Kane’s condition deteriorated, important warning signs were not picked up.”

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