Daughter criticises hospital delay in reacting to seriousness of father's condition

PUBLISHED: 15:31 24 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:46 06 May 2010

A DAUGHTER has told a coroner that she believes her father was failed by the NHS after a serious post-operational complication wasn t spotted until hours before his death. Anthony Houghton, aged 67, from Park Street, died in November last year from compli

A DAUGHTER has told a coroner that she believes her father was failed by the NHS after a serious post-operational complication wasn't spotted until hours before his death.

Anthony Houghton, aged 67, from Park Street, died in November last year from complications following a hip resurfacing operation at St Albans City Hospital.

He returned to his home in Ringway Road two days after the procedure but doctors failed to notice that he was suffering from a painful stomach condition known as ileus in which the bowel is paralysed and fluid is built up in the gut.

As a result he effectively choked on his own vomit on November 7 at Watford General Hospital where he was readmitted that day after his hip dislocated.

After hearing the evidence at last Thursday's inquest Mr Houghton's daughter, Claudia Morley, said she felt that her father had been "failed" by the doctors caring for him.

The inquest was told that the normally-active retired builder had started vomiting a brown-coloured fluid the night before he left St Albans City Hospital and was treated with anti-nausea medication. But the vomiting incident was not recorded by hospital staff.

Dr Martin Mbokazi, who discharged Mr Houghton, said he was unaware of the vomiting and he believed his patient was well enough to return home.

He said: "On the day of discharge he was fine and eating and drinking well. As far as we are concerned there were no problems, full-stop."

Dr Mbokazi said that patients would normally be kept in hospital if they had vomited but he emphasised that sickness can often be caused by painkillers so it is not always the case.

When Mr Houghton's hip dislocated two days later he was readmitted to hospital and it was only then that the underlying stomach condition was diagnosed.

He arrived in Accident and Emergency at around 5am and his condition rapidly deteriorated.

Although doctors noted his bloated stomach, the alarm wasn't raised until 11.30am.

By that time he had vomited and was unresponsive for a short time - but it wasn't until 2.30pm that doctors took action and attempted to drain his gut.

And Dr Afolami, who tried to insert the nasal-gastric tube unsuccessfully, admitted that by this point Mr Houghton had become so ill that it was a very difficult procedure.

Mr Houghton couldn't tolerate the tube which caused him to vomit and choke and although he came round he never recovered. He died a few hours later.

Herts Coroner Edward Thomas recorded a narrative verdict listing the sequence of events that led to Mr Houghton's death. The cause of death was recorded as vomiting and aspiration caused by ileus which was a post-operative complication of his hip operation.

Following the inquest Mrs Morley, who lives in Norfolk, said she hoped lessons would be learned from the mistakes made in the run up to her father's death.

She said that doctors at both hospitals should have been more thorough in their checks.

She added: "I certainly think both hospitals failed him but obviously Watford General Hospital has to take the biggest responsibility as that's where he died."

On the day of her father's death, Mrs Morley does not believe anyone checked on him between about 7am and 11am, in which time his condition rapidly deteriorated.

She said: "He wasn't one to make a fuss. He would have told them once that he didn't feel very well and wouldn't have kept on and on and he shouldn't have had to have done. There must be a lot of people like him that wouldn't complain."

Mrs Morley said the whole family was deeply shocked by his death as he was such a fit and active man.

She said: "He was such a lovely and cheerful character. He had a great sense of humour. He is very sorely missed by everybody who knew him. It is a real shame because he had not long retired and he was very fit and active. He loved his metal detecting and that's why he needed the hip sorted out as he walked for miles and miles looking for things. He liked going on holidays to Italy and other places abroad.

She added: "He was a very happy person who had a lot of friends; he was a really popular man."

Mr Houghton is also survived by two sons, five grandchildren and a long-term partner.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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