Cancelled heart operations blamed for death

NHS on trial: MPs rebel as elderly patient's surgery put off four times

The death of an elderly woman whose life-saving heart surgery was cancelled four times because of specialist bed shortages has moved the winter crisis in the health service to the centre of the political stage.

As the family of Queenie Harrild, 69, blamed her death on inadequate NHS funding, opposition politicians called for an immediate Commons statement on the rise in emergency admissions to hospitals, exacerbated by cold weather and flu.

Chris Smith, Labour's spokesman on health, published figures yesterday showing that almost one in four beds across all specialities had closed since the introduction of the internal NHS market.

The British Medical Association last week reiterated its warnings of a winter crisis and is seeking an urgent meeting with Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health, after a survey revealed widespread ward and hospital closures and cancelled operations.

A consultant who cared for Mrs Harrild at Guy's Hospital, in south London, said that heart surgery at the trust had been severely affected "for several months" because intensive-care beds were permanently full.

Dr Bob Knight said: "This was a disaster for Mrs Harrild and a terrible tragedy for her family, made worse by the feeling that if things had been dealt with in some other way she would still be here."

At a press conference at Westminster yesterday, Mrs Harrild's son David said the family would campaign for better funding for the NHS. Her death was caused by the stress of being prepared four times for the operation and then let down, he said.

On each occasion, no intensive-care bed had been available. "In our view, her death is the result of the constant build-ups and let-downs due to the fact that these operations had been cancelled," he added. "We feel it is cruelty to the patient to have to go through this torture.

Mrs Harrild's husband, Bill, 68, a retired HGV driver, saidthe family were speaking publicly to prevent future tragedies and did not blame the hospital. "We don't want Queenie to have died in vain," he said. "Hopefully, this won't happen again."

Mrs Harrild, a former nursery school helper, who had already had one heart bypass, was admitted to her local hospital in Lewisham on 3 December and transferred to Guy's 10 days later. Operations were scheduled for 23 December, 24 December, 2 January and 3 January but never went ahead.

Mrs Harrild was then told that "unless the hospital was bombed", her operation would be on Monday 6 January. However, she collapsed and died on 4 January.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on health, who organised the press conference for the family, said the number of beds available at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust had fallen from 1,400 to 1,100 in two years.

The number of operations purchased by Mrs Harrild's local health authority from the trust was to be cut by a further 5 per cent from April. "Next year ordinary local people who have a perfectly proper case for treatment will have less chance of getting operations because the contract isn't there for them," Mr Hughes said.

Dr Knight said Mrs Harrild's case had been exacerbated by a high number of admissions over Christmas. However, a new building with 13 new intensive- care beds in it was lying empty, he added.

A trust spokeswoman said that the building was not ready. The hospital had five more intensive-care beds than it did four years ago and a new cardiac centre had recently opened at St Thomas'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker - Learning Difficulties

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading and growing provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones