A GRIEVING widow has slammed a private hospital where her husband died following a £12,000 gastric sleeve operation, saying he was the victim of a ‘catalogue of fundamental errors’.
Phillip Morris, 48, died at Spire St Anthony’s in Surrey in December 2021 just four days after he underwent the operation.
An inquest into Philip’s death ruled that it ‘is likely that it was “likely [the dad] would have survived” had the equipment at Spire St Anthony’s been working properly.
The dad-of-one had always struggled with his weight and been diagnosed with sleep apnoea.
Due to a catalogue of fundamental errors, he would never leave the hospital
He’d been told the procedure would “change his life”, but instead, he never left the hospital.
Philip developed abdominal pain two days after the procedure that removed part of his stomach and his condition deteriorated fast over the following day.
Read more on weight loss ops
He was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit and medics decided to intubate Philip- when a tube is inserted into someone’s trachae to help them breathe – as they waited for a bed at the nearby St George’s NHS hospital.
But the dad, originally from Newport in Wales, passed away after going into cardiac arrest.
In a statement after the inquest, his wife Dana said: “While in the care of Spire Health, we feel that our Phil was treated like a commodity on a conveyor belt, without the individual care he so clearly needed.
“He entered private healthcare firm Spire’s St Anthony’s hospital for the operation, trusting himself to their care.
“However, due to a catalogue of fundamental errors by those working in the Spire, he would never leave the hospital.
“There was a failure to properly monitor Phil post-surgery, including staff failing to take his bloods as specifically ordered by his surgeon.
“It was a critical error that began a spiral of events, which we have no doubt ultimately led to Phil’s death.”
The inquest revealed that equipment used in the ICU to observe Mr Morris was not working correctly, meaning his breathing and carbon dioxide levels was not monitored when staff attempted an intubation.
Mistakes cost Phil his life and we will forever suffer those consequences
Philip subsequently went into cardiac arrest, with a post-mortem confirming he died from hypoxia – a lack of oxygen.
Dana continued: “There was aof avoidable failures by Spire and the staff at the hospital, which has left me without my husband and Orson without his Dad.
“Phil’s death was entirely avoidable, had the properbeen taken.
“We believe more needs to be done at Spire Hospitals. Lessons must be learned so this never happens to any other family.
“Spire’s mistakes cost Phil his life and we will forever suffer those consequences.”
Post-surgery complications and delays
Throughout the four-day inquest at Croydon Coroner’s Court, the hearing was told that Philip had suffered a series of complications post-surgery – including infection, acute kidney injury as a result of the surgery, and breathing difficulties.
However, Philip felt like his symptoms were being “dismissed” – with his concerns not listened to.
Dana said: “I felt like I was having to advocate for Phil.”
The inquest heard that blood tests were taken several hours after they should have been, delaying the diagnosis of the severity of Philip’s condition.
On one occasion, he was allowed to leave the hospital in the middle of the night.
Dana told the hearing that she and her son Orson, then 12 now 14, were called to the hospital to find Philip – and had to run around outside in the dark looking for him as no one had been at reception.
“Phil had been allowed to exit the intensive care unit without the oxygen he desperately needed and leave the building in the middle of a cold, wetnight in just a hospital gown,” she said.
“I remember thinking what a traumatic night this would be for Orson – one he would never forget.”
Lack of compassion
Dana also claimed Spire employees showed a lack of compassion to her and her son after Philip’s death.
She explained: “After I was informed of Phil’s death, I was made to feel as if there was an immense time pressure.
“It meant I was forced to wake up our twelve-year-old son Orson to inform him of his father’s death.
“If the time pressure had not been there, I could have waited a few hours for him to wake up naturally.
“As a result of being woken up and told this horrific, Orson has had nightmares ever since – as he is afraid that when he goes to sleep someone is going to wake him up to tell him this.”
She added that Orson entered “a deep” after his father’s death, as the pair had been “inseparable”.
Dana also said staff did not allow she and Orson private time with Mr Morris’ body after he had died.
“Staff members kept coming into the room,” she said.
“I asked for us to have some undisturbed time with him, but doctors and nurses kept coming in.
“I ended up positioning my back to the door to keep everyone out.”
Spire then sent Dana monthlyto recoup the costs of Mr Morris’ surgery just weeks after he died.
Mrs Morris said: “Spire’s treatment was supposed to help Phil, but all they did was send me bills after he died.
“If a family does suffer the loss of their loved ones, they should be treated with more respect and compassion than we received.”
‘Likely’ dad would have survived
The family’s barrister Julian Matthews had urged the coroner to consider a conclusion of ‘neglect’ for the inquest.
He said: “As far as conclusion is concerned, I will invite you to consider that this is a case of a series of shortcomings in medical care, whereby the death was dangerously contributed to by neglect.”
Senior Coroner Sarah Olmond-Walshe refused to return a ‘neglect’ conclusion however, stating: “It is too speculative to consider what would have happened had blood tests happened earlier.”
However, she did conclude: “On the balance of probabilities it is likely that Mr Morris would have survived the emergency intubation procedure had a correctly attached and working EtCO2 module been in use when assessing the front of neck airway, at the time that airway was first fashioned.
“The deceased died suffering complications of an emergency procedure carried out, in turn, to treat complications post bariatric surgery.”
She did not order a preventingdeaths report, which coroners prepare when they believe that an organisation or government department needs to take action to prevent future deaths in the same manner.
What does weight loss surgery involve?
SOMETIMES called bariatric surgery, weight loss operations involve making the stomach smaller so you feel full quicker.
It’s available on the NHS to:
- people who have a body mass index of 40 or more
- people with a BMI between 35 and 40 and a condition that might improve from losing weight – like high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems and asthma
- people who’ve haven’t been able to lose weight with other methods like exercise and diet
You can also opt to have the surgery done privately.
There are a few different types of weight loss surgeries, with methods including dividing the stomach using a stomach staple, placing a bad over the top of the stomach or removing part of the stomach
According to NHS guidance, weight loss surgery is a common and safe procedure, though there can be complications such as blood clots, stomach leaks, infections or a blocked gut.
Discussing learnings on the penultimate day of the inquest, Sheila Enright, Director of Clinical Services at Spire St Anthony’s, said the hospital had improved its monitoring of a patient’s vitals.
She said: “Checks have improved.
“We’ve implemented a new system whereby charts are calculated every eight hours rather than 24 hours.”
But Mr Matthews argued: “There was a clear note on Mr Morris’ chart which said his bloods should be taken at 6am. They simply weren’t.
“Is there any new guidance to ensure these actions will be carried out?”
Ms Enright said: “It is not our standard practice to not undertake those orders.
“Our standard practice is that when a consultant requests for bloods to be taken, it should happen.”
Mr Matthews pressed: “Will any monitoring be put in place to alert Spire that there are problems of this nature are arising, now this has been raised in the inquest?”
Ms Enright said she could raise it with Spire.
In a statement, Spire Healthcare said: “We offer our very sincere and heartfelt condolences to Mr Morris’ wife, son and family. We apologise for the distress and pain Mr Morris’ death has caused and especially for the opportunities missed while he was in our care, as highlighted by the Coroner.
“Prior to the inquest, we carried out a thoroughof Mr Morris’ treatment and have taken action to address the learnings we identified.
“We accept the Coroner’s findings and will reflect on what further we can learn from this sad case.
In the meantime, we will continue to offer support to Mr Morris’ family.”
Philip was a lecturer, writer, and actor, originally from Newport, Wales.
In a statement, Dana described him as “a force of nature – a great father to our son Orson, a wonderful husband, and a vastly intelligent, funny, and loving man.”