Page last updated at 05:48 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 06:48 UK

Heart patient delays criticised

Prince Charles Hospital
The man went to Prince Charles Hospital with a suspected heart attack

Health officials have been ordered to apologise and pay compensation to a patient with serious heart disease who was not referred for a vital test.

The man complained to the ombudsman about delays in consultations and the treatment he received at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.

He later underwent a triple heart bypass operation at another hospital.

The ombudsman upheld the complaint. Cwm Taf NHS Trust will now review its cardiology arrangements.

The patient - called Mr M in ombudsman Peter Tyndall's report - complained about cardiac treatment he received at the hospital in 2006 and 2007.

Mr M made a number of criticisms of the former North Glamorgan NHS Trust that was responsible for the hospital at that time.

His complaint was handled by the successor trust - Cwm Taf NHS Trust, which came into existence in April 2008.

Mr M said that the former trust "mishandled" his care after he had been admitted to hospital after a suspected heart attack in November 2006.

He was at risk of death or a debilitating heart attack
Peter Tyndall, ombudsman

He said he was not referred for a vital test - an angiogram - which was "clearly and vitally indicated" by test results.

He also said there had been "unjustifiable delays" in a follow-up appointment to see a cardiac specialist and that an appointment with a specialist that had been arranged to review his case had been cancelled.

Mr M said that these failures meant that he had to wait many months longer for cardiac surgery than should have been the case.

He said that this left him in danger of a heart attack and caused him great stress whilst he was awaiting an appropriate medical response. His anxiety was heightened because both his parents had died suddenly of coronary heart disease.

He eventually had triple heart bypass surgery at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, in May 2008 after his GP referred him to another health trust hospital, which diagnosed him as having serious heart disease.

'Serious clinical error'

After investigating, the ombudsman "strongly upheld" Mr M's complaint.

He found that it was a serious clinical error by the trust not to refer Mr M for an angiogram when it had the opportunity in early 2007.

Instead, it referred him for a test that was not appropriate for someone with his condition.

This mistake was partly prompted by a lack of capacity for angiography in the area of the former trust at that time, the ombudsman said in the report.

He said: "It is clear to me that Mr M had to wait, probably without appropriate medication, many months longer for his triple bypass operation than should have been the case.

"He had enough information available to him to mean that he was concerned about his health from November 2006. He was right to be concerned.

"He was at risk of death or a debilitating heart attack. I understand in that context, that Mr M has lost faith in the NHS. Therefore, he has suffered a significant injustice."

The ombudsman made a number of recommendations, including the trust revisiting a review of patients who were referred for the same test and carrying out a review of its cardiology arrangements.

The report said the trust had already apologised but urged it to apologise again and to pay Mr M £2,000 in compensation.

The report said the trust had agreed to implement the recommendations.



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