L&D ‘sorry’ after delay over body
Hospital bosses have apologised unreservedly to a Dunstable man after a paperwork delay caused his father’s body to lay in a mortuary for nearly two weeks.
And they have vowed to review ‘end-of-life procedures’ at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital as a result of the case.
Kenneth Stewart, 83, died from liver metastases at the L&D on May 31, but his body was not released from the mortuary until June 13 – which almost scuppered the family’s funeral plans.
Mr Stewart’s son, David, of Graham Road, wrote a number of letters to the hospital, complaining of their “complete incompetence and disregard for any family feelings”.
The body was eventually released from the mortuary at 3.20pm on June 13 – less than an hour after Mr Stewart sent an email to the hospital threatening to seek legal advice if a full investigation did not take place.
He said: “I had to lie to my mother and tell them there was a problem with the casket.
“I was compelled to lie to my mother as to why she was unable to see her husband of 64 years to say goodbye – something that will stay with me for some considerable time.”
The original hold-up was due to a mistake on the cause of death certificate issued by doctors.
Mr Stewart said: “The word ‘possible’ was included in one of the three causes of death, and due to the Jubilee celebrations this was not seen until I went to register the death at the registrars.
“There is enough going on in your head at a time like that – you don’t need these delays.”
The hospital released a statement apologising for the delay. It said: “Luton & Dunstable Hospital has apologised unreservedly for any distress caused to the family of a deceased patient for the delay in releasing the body of their relative for cremation.
“The process for getting important legal documents such as cremation release forms completed can be complex, and involve input from a number of medical staff.
“However, the Trust fully appreciates that in this case, the delay was unacceptable and fell short of the standard of service the L&D strives to provide. The Trust is now reviewing hospital procedures in relation to death certificates and the release of the deceased, so that there are no avoidable delays, and to ensure a high-quality service for this important part of the end of life care for patients.
Part four of the cremation paper was completed on June 1.
Neville’s Funeral Directors contacted the hospital’s outpatient division on June 6, but part five of the paper was not completed by the consultant pathologist until June 9, and did not reach the mortuary for a further four days.
Mr Stewart said: “I have no issues with the care my father received during his short time there, but after his death they didn’t seem to care.”
He also received the “sincere apologies” of Louis Young, manager of the hospital’s outpatient division, who said: “We do accept that the delay in the form reaching the mortuary from June 9 to June 13 is unsatisfactory. This is clearly not the level of service we wish to provide.”
Mr Stewart suggested that his experience was not a one-off. He said in a letter to the hospital: “We have contacted several people with reference to the services provided by the hospital after the death of a loved one and have found that our situation is not uncommon.”
Pauline Philip, chief executive of the NHS Foundation trust, said in a letter to Mr Stewart: “I am very sorry that you had cause to complain about the standard of care your father received and on behalf of the Trust I would like to reiterate my sincere apologies.”
Mr Stewart senior, who worked as a postman, was born in Grimsby but moved to Luton when he was 12. His funeral was held at Stopsley Crematorium on June 15.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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