Essex

Princess Alexandra Hospital: Man starved himself to death

Frederick Payne Image copyright Family handout/Osbornes Law
Image caption Frederick Payne was allowed to refuse food and drink, an inquest heard

A former black-cab driver starved himself to death in hospital after he was allowed to refuse food and drink, an inquest heard.

Frederick Payne, 73, from Woodford Green, east London, weighed 40.4kg (6st 4lbs) when he died at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, on 3 January 2019.

His death was due to natural causes, an inquest at Essex Coroner's Court ruled.

But his family said they were angry and felt he "could have been saved".

The hospital said "opportunities were missed" in the treatment of Mr Payne, and said it was in the process of developing a food and drink refusal policy.

Mr Payne was described as "cathectic" by a pathologist when he died - a state of acute emaciation normally seen in late-stage terminal cancer or Aids patients.

Despite this the hospital had been preparing to discharge him in the days before his death, the inquest heard.

In a letter to the hospital following his death, Mr Payne's wife of 43 years Laraine said: "How did my husband end up looking like a stinking, unshaven and dishevelled tramp lying on a hospital floor?"

The inquest heard Mr Payne had previously been admitted to a psychiatric ward, suffered from depression and anxiety and had signs of dementia

But staff at the hospital made the decision he was rational enough to refuse food.

Image caption Frederick Payne was being prepared to be discharged from Princess Alexandra Hospital days before his death

Pathologist Dr Peter Davis said his "mental capacity was assessed at various times" and he was found to have capacity and therefore "in a position to refuse anything".

The court heard medical staff changed their minds about discharging him and decided he should be fed by tube, but he died of a heart attack before this could take place.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a verdict of death caused by starvation, listing Mr Payne's achalasia, depression and anxiety as secondary causes.

June Barnard, associate director of nursing at Princess Alexandra Hospital, said: "There were opportunities to assess Mr Payne's medical capacity in a more formal way for decision-specific reasons and we missed those opportunities."

The North East London NHS Foundation Trust, which had been responsible for Mr Payne's mental health treatment before his admission, also vowed to improve standards and communication.

Mrs Payne said afterwards: "We are incredibly angry that we lost Freddie when he could have been saved. We loved him so much and will miss him forever."

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