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Man’s death highlights equipment shortages at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital

Dangers posed by hospital equipment shortages have been highlighted following the death of a heart bypass patient.

Michael Walton suffered a lack of blood flow to the brain after the surgeon carrying out the operation at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital had to use an alternative type of cannula, which dislodged from the 66-year-old’s aorta.

Georgina Nolan, senior coroner for Newcastle and North Tyneside, has written to the government and NHS England to highlight the risks caused by supply issues.

The Department of Health described it as a “tragic case” and said it was “important that we learn the lessons” from every such incident. NHS England said it was “carefully considering” the report.

In a prevention of future death report, sent when a coroner thinks action is needed to protect lives, Nolan said Walton had been considered a “a good candidate for the surgery” which was carried out on 13 June last year.

However, the surgeon’s preferred choice of cannula – a tube inserted into the body – “was not available for the procedure due to supply issues”, leading them to use one with a slightly shorter tip.

“The cannula type contributed to its dislodgement from the lumen of the aorta and to Walton’s death,” Nolan added.

‘Avoidable risk’
Walton died at Carlisle’s Eden Valley Hospice a month later.

An inquest concluded his death was “due to a very rare complication of a necessary surgical procedure”.

Listing her concerns in the newly issued report, Nolan warned: “Operating surgeons are best placed to decide on the most appropriate equipment to use and should not be restricted in that choice by supply shortages.

“Using sub-optimal medical equipment poses an avoidable risk to patients of significant harm including death.”

The Department of Health must formally respond to the report by 29 August.

In a statement to the BBC, it said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Michael’s family and friends in this tragic case.

“It is important that we learn the lessons from every prevention of future deaths report.

“The department has received the report and will consider it carefully before responding in due course.”

NHS England added it would also “respond in due course” and it “extends its deepest sympathies” to Walton’s family and friends. BBC

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