Failings in care at Stevenage's Lister Hospital led to Hitchin patient's sepsis death

PUBLISHED: 12:32 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:32 10 September 2019

Michael Langley with his wife Sandra and daughters Sarah and Clair. Picture courtesy of Irwin Mitchell.

Michael Langley with his wife Sandra and daughters Sarah and Clair. Picture courtesy of Irwin Mitchell.

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Failings in care at Stevenage's Lister Hospital led to the death of a patient from sepsis, bosses at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust have admitted.

Michael Langley, who lived in Hitchin, had been receiving chemotherapy for neck cancer when he started feeling unwell.

Following tests at Lister he was discharged, but continued to deteriorate. Four days later the 63-year-old was dead.

Michael's devastated family instructed medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his care under the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs Lister.

The NHS trust has now admitted liability and said failings in care at Lister led to Michael's death, including failing to administer antibiotics in line with national guidelines on suspected neutropenic sepsis and failing to adequately monitor Michael in A&E.

Recommendations outlined in a Serious Incident Report compiled by the NHS trust include improved management of medication for all suspected neutropenic sepsis cases.

Michael's widow, Sandra, and the couple's daughters, 40-year-old Sarah and 38-year-old Clair, are marking World Sepsis Day on Friday by calling for better education and care around the condition - the body's life-threatening reaction to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Lawyer Guy Forster, representing the family, said: "This is a truly distressing case which highlights not only the huge impact sepsis can have, but also why there is the need to raise awareness around the potential warning signs of the condition.

"Sandra and her family remain absolutely devastated by the sudden loss of Michael and, while we are pleased to have secured an admission of liability, we know nothing will change what has happened or what they are continuing to go through.

"World Sepsis Day is an important time to reflect on this awful condition and it is vital every effort is made to learn lessons from a case like this. Sepsis is responsible for simply too many deaths."

Michael, a retired mechanical engineer, and Sandra, 65, had been married for 42 years and had six grandchildren.

Michael was diagnosed with neck cancer in September 2017 and had been having chemotherapy.

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On January 2 last year he started to feel lethargic and had a raised temperature.

Two days later, with the symptoms worsening, Michael was advised by his cancer nurse to attend A&E at Lister, but he was discharged after tests.

His condition continued to deteriorate and, after collapsing on January 8, he was taken back to Lister by ambulance and placed in critical care.

He died later that afternoon following a diagnosis of neutropenic sepsis.

Michael's neutropenia - an abnormally low white blood cell count - was as a result of his chemotherapy and made him more prone to infection.

Sandra said: "It was absolutely awful seeing how Michael's condition deteriorated, particularly as our initial hospital visit had led us to believe there was no serious cause for concern.

"He was in a dreadful state - not eating and just so tired. When he collapsed I knew that was the final straw and he had to go to hospital.

"He was sitting up and talking again when he was taken to critical care, but just a few hours later we were told he had sepsis - none of us could believe it.

"It remains difficult to accept he is gone. I feel like we have been cheated out of spending our retirement together and he should be here spending time with our daughters and grandchildren.

"While it is welcome the NHS trust has admitted to failings, we want to know lessons will be learned so no other family has to suffer the same pain we have."

A spokesman for the NHS trust said: "We are sorry for the failures in our care which led to Michael's death, and welcome Michael's family raising awareness of the serious and devastating consequences of sepsis.

"Sepsis is recognised as being very hard to diagnose and, since Michael's death, the trust has put in place extensive training and improvements around awareness of sepsis symptoms - and monitoring patients for sepsis - including following the new national guidelines from NHS England.

"Over 85 per cent of our clinical staff are now trained in recognition of sepsis, and all of our staff who care for patients in the emergency department attend an annual update on recognition, diagnosis and treatment of sepsis using the latest National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.

"We will continue to relentlessly seek ways to improve our diagnosis and treatment of patients who develop sepsis."

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