Widow sues Luton & Dunstable Hospital over her husband’s swab death

Frank and Christine Hibbard
Frank and Christine Hibbard

A heartbroken widow is taking legal action against Luton & Dunstable Hospital – after it was found that doctors had left a swab in her husband for 13 years.

Shortly before his death in 2014, scans revealed that Frank Hibbard had a swab around his pelvic region– which had been there since a prostate operation at the L&D 13 years earlier.

Frank Hibbard

Frank Hibbard

A mass attached to it had calcified, grown around veins and had increased to the size of a melon, pressing on his rectum and bowel.

At that point Mr Hibbard, 69, was also found to have multiple cancers but he died before an operation to remove the mass could be carried out.

The swab left the lorry driver in constant pain prior to his death, his widow Christine has said.

The L&D has admitted fault over the error in 2001 and has apologised that the swab was also missed on a CT scan two years later.

Mrs Hibbard said: “I feel angry.

“Angry firstly that a swab was left behind following his operation in 2001, and then that it was missed on a scan a year later.

“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 had a massive impact on his health.

“I am so angry and always will be.”

Frank and Christine met at the age of 16 and married just two years later in September 1964.

He left behind two children and four grandchildren.

Mrs Hibbard added: “The pain is still intensely raw and remains at the forefront of my mind.

“He is the first thing I think about when I wake and I have difficulty sleeping without him.

“The crushing pain comes from knowing he is never coming back.

“We went everywhere and did everything together.

“In the days that followed I was afraid to go out of the house. How could I on my own?

“Frank was my rock, and life will never be the same without him.”

Renu Daly, a medical negligence solicitor representing Mrs Hibbard, said that the error had left Mr Hibbard and his family in a ‘total state of shock’.

She added: “There is quite simply no excuse or explanation that can be given to defend the error of leaving a swab behind inside a patient following an operation.

“It is a simple case of counting the swabs in and back out again to ensure a mistake is not made.”

She continued: “It has left many serious questions to be asked at the inquest as to how this sort of error could ever happen, and the full impact this had on the quality of life Mr Hibbard was able to enjoy with his family.”

An inquest into Mr Hibbard’s death will take place in Ampthill on March 7.

An L&D spokesperson told the Luton News: “We extend our condolences to Mr Hibbard’s family and apologise sincerely for the error that took place in 2001 when a swab was unintentionally left in situ after a surgical procedure.

“The retained swab was discovered in 2014.

“We carried out a thorough internal review and provided an explanation and apology to Mr Hibbard’s family.

“We would like to apologise again for the error, and for the fact that a key opportunity to identify and remove the swab was missed during a CT scan in 2003.

“This is clearly something that should never have happened.

“We would like to reassure Mr Hibbard’s family that, since the time of this incident, we were one of the first hospitals in the UK to introduce the World Health Organisation’s Safe Surgery Checklist to minimise the possibility of this happening again.”