Legal action is being taken against a hospital Trust after an inquest concluded that a medical swab which was left inside a patient after surgery contributed to his death from cancer 13 years later.
Luton and Dunstable Hospital left the swab in Frank Hibbard’s pelvis while removing his prostate in 2001.
In the years after the swab was left inside him, the former long-distance lorry driver often complained of severe pain, particularly in his back, and was regularly prescribed painkillers by his GP.
At an inquest in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, Coroner Tom Osborne yesterday heard how a mass the size of a large grapefruit, grew around the calcified swab, and was found in 2014 when Mr Hibbard’s health deteriorated.
Mr Hibbard, 69, of Luton, was at that time found to have developed multiple sites of cancer, and he died two weeks later.
Retained swab contributed to death
The inquest heard how a chance to remove the swab had been missed in 2003, as a foreign body was visible on a scan and was recorded on Mr Hibbard’s medical notes, but no action was taken.
Medical Negligence Specialists
It led to the coroner concluding that the retained swab materially contributed to Mr Hibbard developing angiosarcoma (cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels), which ultimately led to his death.
Prior to this week’s inquest, Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has admitted breach of duty in relation to the swab being left behind in Mr Hibbard, after it was discovered in 2014.
It also admitted that a key opportunity had been missed to remove the swab following the scan in 2003.
However, the Trust was at that stage not accepting its mistakes had contributed to Mr Hibbard’s death in 2014.
Now, Renu Daly, the solicitor representing Mr Hibbard’s family from medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, says the coroner’s conclusion has rightly held the Trust to account for ‘unforgiveable errors’.
“It has been a very difficult time for our client given the sudden loss of her husband in such tragic circumstances, and since his death in 2014, she and her sons have been searching for answers as to how and why these unforgiveable errors happened,” said Ms Daly.
“Mr Hibbard had gone to hospital in 2014 as the pains he was suffering were getting worse, and it was a big shock to be told firstly that a swab had been left inside him for 13 years, and then to be informed that it had calcified and a large mass had developed around it, pressing on his rectum and bowel.
“Mrs Hibbard saw her husband of almost 50 years deteriorate quickly and die just days later.
“He had suffered years of pain, but until yesterday’s inquest, the hospital Trust was admitting the errors, but refusing to accept it was a contributory factor in his death. That is an unforgivable approach too.
“This whole experience has been very traumatic for Mrs Hibbard and her family, and we are thankful that the coroner listened to the overwhelming evidence and held the hospital to account.”
“Health system badly let him down”
Mrs Hibbard said: “I feel angry. Angry firstly that a swab was left behind following his operation in 2001, that it was missed on a scan a year later, and that we have faced denials over the impact of those errors.
“All those years he lived with a swab inside him. I just feel the health system badly let him down. In my view the poor treatment left him in agony and caused me to lose my husband early, when we had so much more to look forward to together. I am so angry and always will be.
“Within days of finding out about the swab he became too weak and fell into a deep coma like sleep for seven days, before he died in my arms.
“Part of me died that day too, as ever since I have felt lost and alone. My husband of nearly fifty years and my best friend was gone forever.”