Serious incidents at NHS in Essex revealed

A series of serious incidents - some of which involved the deaths of patients - have been revealed by a BBC investigation into the NHS in Essex.

In one case an emergency medical technician told a patient she was having a panic attack, but two hours later the woman suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

And a 10-month-old boy who was suffering a seizure was not taken to hospital by a paramedic on an emergency call-out, the investigation found.

The boy was subsequently diagnosed with suspected meningitis and died.

Inquest due

The two episodes are among a catalogue of Serious Untoward Incidents (SUI) revealed by a Freedom of Information request to five NHS trusts in Essex by BBC Look East.

The first incident, in August 2009, is believed to have involved a 49-year-old woman from the Canvey Island area.

An inquest is due to take place but no date has yet been set.

The child in the second incident, which also happened in 2009, was presented to A&E at Basildon Hospital a day later and was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he died.

The East of England Ambulance Service said: "In both of these cases, investigations were undertaken by the trust which highlighted the need to review certain aspects of our operations including patient care and treatment options, and communicating information to patients and their families.

"The recommended actions from these investigations have all been implemented by the trust".

Other SUI notifications sent by NHS trusts in Essex to the National Patient Safety Agency between January 2009 and May 2010 include how maintenance workers at the former St John's Hospital in Chelmsford "may have been exposed unknowingly to asbestos fibres in the last 10 years" after the substance was missed during a survey.

'Asbestos stripped'

Mid Essex Hospitals NHS Trust said it had "followed all of the correct procedures in this case" and that "we wrote to all members of staff who had worked in the plant room prior to advise them of the very low risk".

"The asbestos was immediately stripped," it said.

In another incident, a cancer patient received six daily doses instead of weekly oral chemotherapy in March 2010 before a pharmacist' s error was discovered by Southend Hospital.

North East Essex PCT recorded the highest number of SUI's classified as "unexpected deaths" within the East of England between January 2009 and May 2010.

The 68 notifications were double the amount for every other PCT in Essex combined.

Sarah Jane Relf, interim director of clinical quality at NHS North East Essex, said: "During the period in question, 63 of the unexpected deaths attributed to NHS North East Essex were actually unexpected deaths reported by the North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the mental health trust, which covers three primary care trusts across north Essex."

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