Medical Negligence

Patient needing life saving heart treatment died aged 41 after hospital failed to put him on waiting list

hudgell-solicitors-supported-heidi-page-in-her-fatal-medical-negligence-claim-following-after-the-loss-of-her-partner-christopher-baker
matthew-gascoyne-hudgell-solicitors

Matthew Gascoyne

Team Leader & Senior Associate Solicitor

8 min read time

The partner of a 41-year-old man who died of heart failure says he would be alive today if the hospital treating him had correctly put him on the waiting list for life-saving treatment.

Christopher Baker was under the care of cardiologists at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London when he suddenly died in 2019 after “the system failed him.”

His medical team had agreed he would benefit from being fitted with a device to prevent heart attacks. However, due to system errors within The Trust, he never made it onto the waiting list and died months later.

His partner of 16 years, Heidi Page, who battled for an explanation into why he did not receive the treatment in time to prevent his death, said:

Christopher fell through the system, not once but twice, at a time when he needed it the most.

If you met Christopher, you would never forget him, he was so funny, loving and kind. We’d planned our future together but that’s been taken away and I’ll have to do so much on my own.

Following his death, Barts Health NHS Trust’s own internal investigation revealed:

the systems involved… lack sufficient failsafe or tracking to support busy clinicians.

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Christopher Baker was 41 when he died while waiting for a heart procedure.

Following a successful medical negligence case brought by Hudgell Solicitors the NHS Trust admitted his death could have been avoided.

Christopher, an IT professional from Romford in Essex, had been diagnosed with heart failure in 2015. After genetic testing, he was told his condition, cardiomyopathy, was inherited.

“At first we thought he just had a really bad chest infection,” said Heidi, “eventually we went to A&E as he had trouble breathing. He had so many tests and was eventually diagnosed with heart issues. It was a shock as he was so young.”

As Christopher’s health declined, he was referred by his local medical team to Barts Health NHS Trust with a view to fitting him with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD).

The device is implanted into patients with abnormal heart rhythms and sends electrical pulses to regulate the heart and prevent cardiac arrest.

An appointment to attend the hospital for a heart test – an electrocardiogram (ECG) – was made for April 2019 but, Christopher became ill shortly before and called the hospital ahead of the date to explain he would not be able to attend.

The Trust logged the cancelled appointment but took no steps to arrange a new one and neither was his consultant informed.

In July 2019 his GP wrote to The Trust concerning another medical matter and it was only then that his medical team at Barts Hospital realised that he had not attended.

A new one was arranged for August where the implant was discussed with Christopher.

When his medical team met in October records show they agreed he would benefit from an ICD implant and a plan was made to refer him for the procedure.

However, Christopher was not placed on the waiting list and neither was his GP informed that a decision had been made for the heart procedure to go ahead. His partner Heidi recalled:

We discussed it after his appointment and agreed that it would be a brilliant thing to have the device; we trusted the hospital and we thought that with some lifestyle changes we would still have a good life together.

We even joked about it, how he would set off security alarms. We had no idea that he wasn’t on the waiting list. He was still working and enjoying fishing and life with our family and our close circle of friends.

On 7th December 2019 Christopher suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

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Heidi and Christopher.

“Christopher was going off fishing that morning and my last words to him were ‘Have a good day, I love you.’ I’d been wrapping Christmas presents and was cooking when the police called at 4.30 pm to tell me he’d died at the lake. I couldn’t take it in,” said Heidi.

“The funeral was unbelievable there were so many people, there were loudspeakers outside for all those who came; it was a real celebration of his life, it was beautiful.”

It wasn’t until almost a year later when Barts Health NHS Trust contacted Heidi to explain what had gone wrong with Christopher’s planned heart procedure that Heidi realised that he had not been placed on the waiting list.

I was speechless; it was a massive shock. They said they were now changing the way they did things, but I had so many questions and I didn’t feel like I was getting answers.

Eventually I just thought, ‘you owe Christopher an apology, you owe me an apology,’ because they knew he could still be alive today.

Heidi says she took advice from several law firms who declined to take on her case, “Some said they were too busy, others didn’t believe legal action would be successful.

I was giving up hope, it was affecting my health and I even began thinking ‘is there really a case?’, then I contacted Hudgell Solicitors.

Her fatal medical negligence case was taken up by Matthew Gascoyne, an experienced medical negligence lawyer, who specialises in high-value cases.

We believed the tragic death of Mr Baker could have been avoided if The Trust had proper systems in place whereby patients and their treatments were properly logged and tracked.

It is simply unacceptable that a patient who requires life-saving cardiology treatment just disappears from view.

Mr Baker’s treatment was delayed for up to eight months and this proved fatal.

Decisions could have, and should have, been made earlier – and even when they were finally made, there was then a failure to act on them.

If the ICD had been fitted earlier, I believe in all likelihood Mr Baker would still be alive today.

The medical team who were looking after him knew he was ill and they knew fitting him with an ICD could save his life, but the tragedy is, no-one ensured that he was put on the waiting list.

Lessons must be learnt, and I hope The Trust, now it has identified its failings, ensures others do not fall through the system.

In an out-of-court settlement, Barts Health NHS Trust admitted the failings and agreed damages of £310,000.

“Matthew has been brilliant because there were times I would have given up if it wasn’t for his encouragement,” said Heidi.

“It was a fight, but I think Christopher would have been proud of me that I’ve been strong enough to get through it. I had to do it for him and Christopher has been with me all the way.”

Hudgell Solicitors claimed the Trust had failed to ensure that adequate processes were in place to inform clinicians where heart tests were not performed due to a patient’s cancellation or other non-attendance at appointments.

It also alleged The Trust failed to rearrange an appointment in a reasonable timeframe, unduly delayed an investigation into Mr Baker’s heart function and, as a result, delayed the decision to fit him with an ICD implant and then failed to place him on the waiting list.

Barts Health NHS Trust’s own investigation identified the ‘Root Cause’ as:

“The systems involved rely on individual staff action and recall and lack sufficient failsafe or tracking to support busy clinicians.”

Heidi says she does feel lessons have been learnt, “I hope others don’t have to experience what I’ve been through. These sorts of mistakes shouldn’t happen again.

They have acknowledged our loss. My impact statement to them was that Christopher was my soulmate, a father to my children and a grandad too. They adored him and he adored them. He’ll always be with us and won’t be forgotten.

Compensation for deaths due to medical negligence

The sudden, unexpected or untimely loss of a loved one can be devastating. We have represented many families where the death was preventable. We understand how traumatic this can be and pride ourselves in supporting our clients through difficult times.

If the loss of your loved one could have been prevented if medical staff had not made mistakes, you may be entitled to compensation.

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