HOSPITAL chiefs have admitted failing a pensioner after a catalogue of blunders in his care.

Thomas Bretherton was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital last year suffering from pancreatitis and passed away three months later.

His death was not linked to any of the failings, an inquest heard.

Blackburn Coroner’s Court was told that during his stay in hospital Mr Bretherton was: * The victim of an alleged assault which left him with head injuries.

* Found on the floor after suffering a heart attack because no barriers were in place to prevent him falling out of bed.

* Fed while supposed to be on ‘nil by mouth’.

* At other times left without food for long periods and left to become dehydrated.

* Moved from ward to ward causing stress and confusion for him and his family * Left to sit out in a chair for hours and then found to be aching and shivering.

Blackburn coroner Michael Singleton blasted the hospital for its poor care while health campaigner Russ McLean said it was ‘absolutely disgusting’.

And hospital bosses have since apologised to the family and admitted they ‘failed the patient and his family’.

Mr Bretherton, of Windsor Road, Knuzden, was admitted to hospital on August 1 suffering from acute pancreatitis.

The retired shift manager died of the disease on December 9, leaving behind his wife, Marie, children Tania and Colin and grandchildren Josie, Patrick, Alice, Sam and Luca. He also had a late son, Neil.

Mr Singleton, who recorded a narrative verdict, said his care while in hospital had been ‘below the level he could have expected’.

Christine Pearson, chief nurse at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The trust is deeply sorry for the shortfall in standards of care received by Mr Bretherton.

“We always aim to provide safe, personal and effective care, and in this case, we failed the patient and his family.

“We are in touch with Mr Bretherton’s family and have assured them we will be open and honest in answering any questions they may still have of us, now that the inquest has been concluded.

“We again offer our sincere condolences. This is a very upsetting case and the subject of a formal complaint.

“As such it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

During the inquest, consultant Daren (corr) Subar admitted some concerns about the standard of care afforded to Mr Bretherton.

Mr Singleton asked Mr Subar about an incident in which Mr Bretherton was found on the floor.

Mr Subar replied: “I find it very difficult to think he could get up and climb over the railings and out of bed.

“I believe the side rail was not up.”

Royal Blackburn Hospital speech and language therapist Janet Hulse said Mr Bretherton had been unable to eat or drink without retching.

She said he was put on a ‘nil by mouth’ and was fed directly into his stomach.

However, it was discovered that over the course of a weekend, nursing staff had been feeding him by mouth.

There was a concern that, because of Mr Bretherton’s condition, food particles could get into the lungs leading to aspiration pneumonia.

Mr Singleton asked about a weekend in which he was given ice cream, soup and a cup of tea on the Friday night and then food and drink over the weekend.

Mrs Bretherton told the hearing: “He was not capable of eating or drinking.

“There was a sign that said ‘nil by mouth’ but they were feeding him.

“When I kept commenting and asking about it they took them down and took them away.”

Pathologist Dr Philip Lumb described evidence of past heart disease and signs of problems caused by pancreatitis.

When asked about the alleged assault, which is still the subject of a court case, he said: “I could see the presence of a healing scar on the forehead and another faint mark on the left side.”

But Dr Lumb said there was no pathological evidence from the post-mortem examination that the ‘assault’ or any of the ‘mistreatment’ had caused Mr Bretherton’s death.

Summing up at the end of the hearing, Mr Singleton said: “I have heard issues with regards to moving from ward to ward with no one knowing why.

“I have also been told of other issues with regards to a lack of feeding and dehydration.

“Quite clearly he was nil by mouth but was being fed.

“And I have heard with regards to him being sat out in a chair that left him shaking and achy.

“There are many issues that cause me great concern.

“I do not consider that it is a natural cause of death.

“What Mr Bretherton was entitled to was the best care to make sure his survival chance was as great as possible.

“His care fell well below the level of what was expected.”

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said although the case was disturbing, he believed the new hospital management was turning things around.

He said: “This incident is absolutely disgusting but I am hoping this will become a thing of the past.”