Thursday, 14 August 2008

Shock as dead body left in NHS ward for seven hours

The body of a dead patient was left propped up in bed on a hospital ward for more than seven hours, health chiefs have admitted.

Christine Martin said she saw the body while visiting her husband David in Glasgow's Stobhill hospital in June. The patient died at 11am but was not taken away until around 6.15pm.

Even after the dead man's son left the hospital at around 3pm there was a further delay in removing the body.

Mrs Martin said there were curtains around the bed but they were "open sufficiently for me to see this man, whom we had got to know over a period of ten days, lying dead, face uncovered, propped up on white pillows".

The health board said it had apologised to Mr Martin and his wife. A spokesman added: "We have acknowledged to the Martins that, beyond this, there was some delay in the transfer of the patient to the mortuary and steps have already been taken to ensure that this does not happen again."

The dead man's son told BBC Scotland that hospital staff acted with "utter compassion" to his request to see the body on the ward before it was taken to the mortuary.

Lynn McDowall, of the Royal College of Nursing, said the normal practice when someone died on a ward was to use a single room where the deceased could be seen by the family in a dignified manner.

She added: "This case highlights the kind of problems nurses come across, because no nurse would want a deceased patient lying on a ward for seven hours."

Mrs Martin wrote a letter of complaint to the health minister Nicola Sturgeon who said steps had since been taken to improve the procedure for removing dead patients from wards.

She said the issue of "non-clinical aspects of care" was a priority for the health service and there had been "shortcomings" in the Stobhill case.