Hospital trust pays out after errors led to father-of-two’s death at weekend

LEEDS Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has made a five-figure payout to the family of a man who died amid claims junior doctors made a series of errors during his treatment on a weekend.

The family of Peter Eustace, of Pontefract, has demanded urgent action to tackle national high weekend death rate figures to prevent further ‘unnecessary’ deaths.

Father-of-two Mr Eustace, 57, died in October 2010 after junior doctors working at St James’s Hospital, Leeds, on a Sunday failed to realise he was bleeding internally. Instead, he was diagnosed as suffering from either a blood clot or an infection.

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Mr Eustace’s chest drain had earlier been removed and his family’s lawyers argued he should have been given a blood transfusion, had his lung drained and, had the bleeding not stopped, been returned to theatre.

His devastated wife Alyson instructed Anna Bosley, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office, to investigate whether more could have been done to prevent his death. Irwin Mitchell has secured the family a five-figure settlement from the trust.

Ms Bosley said: “This case is yet another example of a patient losing his life because he was unlucky enough to suffer an injury at midnight on a Sunday, when staffing levels in hospitals are too low and inexperienced junior doctors are covering a wide range of wards without the support they need to treat specialist patients.”

Mr Eustace’s widow Alyson said: “We remain appalled at the treatment Peter received and it is still very difficult to come to terms with the fact that if the chest drain had been removed on a week day and he experienced those problems, it’s highly likely he would still be alive today. The family cannot understand why more is not being done to tackle weekend death rates as it’s clear the government is aware of the issue yet it seems nothing is being done to improve levels of staff on hospital wards. Sadly, it’s too late for Peter but change needs to happen before any other families are left in the same situation as us.”

No-one from the trust was available to comment yesterday.

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A coroner recorded a narrative verdict at the inquest into Mr Eustace’s death in 2011. She said the post mortem report indicated the acute haemorrhage was likely to have been caused by the removal of the drain, but Mr Eustace had an underlying condition which would have played a role.

A spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals said: “It is not our policy to comment in detail on individual cases, but records show that Mr Eustace was seen twice by the surgical registrar on the day he sadly died and that 24/7 on-call consultant cover was in place to attend if required.”

He added that ensuring appropriate care for patients seven days a week was “a top priority” and statistics showed mortality rates at the weekend are comparable to weekdays.