Pre-inquest review begins following medical negligence death


Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors are preparing to support Norma Whalley who became a widow after 49 years when staff at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust administered a fatal overdose of Aminophylline to her husband.

Medical Negligence

Colin Whalley, 68 died on 18 November 2011 as a result of negligent medical treatment provided at Whiston Hospital, Merseyside on 17 November 2011. The Pre Inquest Review will begin today on 25 November at St Helens’ Town Hall where solicitors for Norma Whalley, now 69 will hear evidence regarding allegations that her husband sustained a fatal overdose when staff negligently administered 24 hours' worth of Aminophylline in just 20 minutes.

The Crown Prosecution Service was initially contacted following the death to investigate a proposed prosecution of the nursing staff responsible for administering the overdose. Having spent some time gathering evidence, they found insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution for “want of care” and as a result, the Coroner is now able to proceed with the Coroner’s Inquest.

“I still get upset every day and struggle to sleep. What happened to Colin is in my mind every hour of every day – it just never goes away. I want justice for what they did to him,” she said.

Norma added: “Colin died on a Friday. The staff just told me to come in on the Monday to collect his death certificate. I just couldn’t believe what had happened. They didn’t even tell me that he was dying until it was too late.”

Norma and Colin met when they were just 15 and 16 respectively, and were married at the age of 18 and 19. Colin got a job at the Liverpool Echo around 1970 where he remained for 25 years – working as a sales rep amongst other things. “The Echo was life; he absolutely loved working there,” explains Norma. “It would have been our 50th wedding anniversary in February 2012. We used to say that not many people got that far and were really looking forward to celebrating it.”

The Facts

Mr Whalley was born on the 3rd November 1943 and at the date of his death had been married to Mrs Whalley for almost 49 years.

Mr Whalley had developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in or about 2004 and was under the care of Whiston Hospital. His condition was controlled with medication.

On the 16th November 2011 as a result of an episode of difficulty breathing, Mr Whalley was admitted to Whiston Hospital at 9:25am. Routine blood tests were taken and he was referred by the medical team to the Medical Assessment Ward with a diagnosis of an acute infection exacerbation of his COPD. He was prescribed antibiotics as well as inhaled steroids.

On the following day, the 17th November Mr Whalley was seen by the Consultant on ward rounds. The Consultant advised that he could prescribe an alternative medication to the inhaled steroids, and as a result, he proposed that Mr Whalley receive intravenous Aminophylline. The drug was to be prescribed intravenously with a loading dose to be administered over a 20 minute period followed by a further dose to be administered over a 24 hour period.

The loading dose was administered and subsequently the maintenance dose. Mr Whalley was with Mr Whalley throughout. After 20 minutes of the maintenance dose, Mr Whalley became acutely ill, in pain and struggling to breathe. It was discovered, that the whole of the maintenance dose had been given over a 20 minute period instead of a 24 hour period resulting in a massive overdose. The Hospital immediately realised the mistake, and following contact with the Poisons Unit in Newcastle, Mr Whalley was treated with intravenous “activated charcoal”. Regretfully, the treatment did not prevent Mr Whalley’s condition deteriorating and he died on the 18th November 2011.

Following his death the Coroner’s Office was alerted and the Merseyside Police informed of the incident. The Merseyside Police investigated the nursing care provided to Mr Whalley and decided that they had insufficient evidence to proceed with a “want of care” prosecution nevertheless, they suggested to Mrs Whalley that she should pursue a civil claim.

H M Coroner for St Helens is due to convene a Pre Inquest Review on Tuesday 26th November at The St Helens’ Town Hall, at which he will decide when the final Inquest into Mr Whalley’s death will be held. The Pre Inquest Review will deal with which witnesses the Coroner intends to call, and what evidence he wishes to rely on. It will also fix the date for the Inquest.

Mrs Whalley’s Solicitors Simpson Millar LLP of Manchester received a letter from the Trust’s Legal Representatives within the last 2 weeks, accepting that the Trust were negligent in failing to administer the dose of Aminophylline slowly over a 24 hour period in accordance with prescription chart, and as a consequence of this failing, Mr Whalley received an overdose which played a significant part in causing his death.

“Norma deserves to learn the truth about what happened and to receive justice for her late husband. At the final Inquest into his death the exact circumstances of that fatal day two years ago will finally come to light. The fact the she has had to wait two years for a letter of apology from the Trust is entirely unacceptable. Norma witnessed firsthand the failings which led to the death of her husband two years ago and is at a loss to understand why it has taken the trust two years to admit it,” said Stephanie Forman of Simpson Millar solicitors who is representing Mrs Whalley in her claim for medical negligence.

The Inquest has been fixed for a “Pre Inquest Review” on the 26th November at St Helens’ Town Hall. The Defendant Trust has admitted breach of duty and an apology has only today been received by Mrs Whalley.

News Archive

Get In Touch