An Isle of Wight man - who was misdiagnosed and sent home from St Mary's Hospital on the first day of the coronavirus lockdown - almost died, according to a report by the Guardian.
In a statement to the national newspaper, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust has "sincerely apologised" for its failings, which came about at a time when the NHS had switched its focus to the fight against Covid-19.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, is said to have been left in "excruciating pain" after he developed life-threatening blood poisoning, and contracted the flesh-eating bug necrotising fasciitis.
The Guardian's report says the Islander needed eight operations to remedy the damage caused by his "misdiagnosis".
Mary Smith, of the solicitors Novum Law, who are representing the man in his complaint against the trust, told the Guardian:
“It is evident in this case that something went badly wrong and our client was failed by the system. The NHS was designed to offer ‘cradle to the grave’ medical treatment for all, yet our client was not able to access urgent treatment when he needed it."
According to the Guardian, the man was admitted to St Mary’s on 22 March with pain in his abdomen and groin due to an existing hernia problem.
The report says he was scanned the next day but, after doctors wrongly diagnosed his condition, he was sent home and told to take antibiotics.
The man told the newspaper how he was one of many patients to be discharged that day. The Guardian's story reads:
"In the following weeks, St Mary’s hospital had refused to readmit him, despite his symptoms worsening. The man’s wife rang 10 private hospitals on the mainland but all had said they could not treat her husband as they had been taken over by the NHS as part of a deal to provide extra NHS care during the pandemic.
"In desperation she rang 999 on 12 April. But staff at St Mary’s told the ambulance crew not to bring him in and instead to tell him to ring NHS 111. He was finally readmitted later that day when the NHS 111 doctor who answered his call recognised how serious the situation was. He was then diagnosed as having appendicitis within his hernia, sepsis and necrotising fasciitis."
An inquiry by the trust found that “there was a missed diagnosis on 22 March”.
According to the Guardian, the patient spent three weeks at St Mary's Hospital after he was readmitted, but infection control procedures at St Mary’s to reduce the spread of the coronavirus meant his wife was not allowed to visit.
Isle of Wight NHS Trust CEO, Maggie Oldham, acknowledged mistakes were made. In a letter to the patient, published by the Guardian, she said:
“The trust accepts that had surgery on the right inguinal hernia been undertaken during the admission of 22 to 23 March 2020 the subsequent pain, sepsis and numerous returns to theatre would have been avoided.”
A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight NHS Trust told the Guardian:
"We sincerely apologise for the experience that this person had in our care, following a misdiagnosis in March 2020 that resulted in the patient having to spend a long time in hospital during April and May. The changes to the hospital environment as a result of Covid-19 are in place to protect those in our care and we have not discharged patients early who require continued hospital treatment".
The man’s wife told the Guardian:
“Not only was my husband sent home when he shouldn’t have been, but no matter how hard we tried, neither we, our GP or the paramedics could arrange for a hospital to take him.
“By the time an NHS 111 doctor insisted he go straight to the hospital he was so unwell [that] his life was in danger.
“If the hospital had got the diagnosis right in the first place, or not discharged him when they cleared the ward on the day of the lockdown, all this would never have happened.”
The Guardian's exclusive story can be found in full here.