A GRIEVING wife whose husband collapsed and died within hours of being discharged from hospital has claimed he was sent home too soon.
Father of two Richard Scott, 38, suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia in his bedroom, brought on by an overdose of anti-depressant drugs he had taken.
He had just been discharged from Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington, Northumberland – where he was admitted the previous day and kept in overnight after swallowing the tablets with alcohol.
Yesterday – following an inquest into his death – Mr Scott’s widow and his father criticised the hospital for sending him home so quickly, when they claim he was clearly not well enough to do so.
Mr Scott, who lived with his wife Sharon and their two teenage children in Greyfield Estate, Embleton, near Alnwick, died in April last year.
A post-mortem revealed that the cause of death was acute cardiac arrhythmia, due to an overdose of the drug Citalopram, which he was prescribed for depression.
The Ashington inquest was told it was impossible to say whether his death was triggered by the original overdose the previous day, or whether he had taken a second one after leaving hospital.
Mr Scott’s family insist he never had the opportunity to take a second overdose, and say they want the hospital to learn lessons from his death.
Yesterday Mrs Scott, who was married to her husband for 18 years, said: “Richard should have been kept in hospital for longer. I knew when I went in to get him, and they said they were discharging him, that he was not right and was not fit enough to come home. He just didn’t look himself and looked so ill.
“There is absolutely no way he could have taken a second overdose after leaving the hospital and coming home with me. No one was helpful at all at the hospital and we are not happy with the way it was handled.
“We trusted the system to look after Richard but feel we have been let down, and now I have got two kids without a dad.”
Mr Scott’s father, William Scott, said: “We hope lessons will be learned from Richard’s death. We are told the hospital followed the guidelines correctly, but guidelines should be flexible when it comes to individuals.”
Mr Scott, who had suffered from depression for some years, took the overdose on Sunday April 26 last year and was admitted to Wansbeck General. He was sent home at 2pm the next day after medical staff and a self-harm team said he was fit to be discharged.
Shortly after getting home he collapsed on his bed and resuscitation attempts by his family and ambulance paramedics failed to save him.
Pathologist Dr David Smith said the drug levels in Mr Scott’s blood were significantly higher at post-mortem than when he was admitted to hospital. He said the most obvious explanation for this was a second overdose taken after he was discharged.
However, Dr Smith said it was also possible it was due to an abnormally slow absorption of the original overdose into his system.
North Northumberland coroner, Tony Brown, asked a legal representative of the Northumbria Healthcare Trust at the inquest to see whether lessons could be learned. Mr Brown said he accepted the hospital had followed the recommended NHS guidelines in discharging Mr Scott, but added: “I would not like to lose the opportunity of learning lessons from what appears to be a very unusual case.
“We will probably never know with absolute certainty whether he took a second overdose, or if his death was caused by delayed absorption of the original drugs he took.”
Last night Jim Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare Trust, said: “On behalf of the trust I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Mr Scott’s family at this very difficult time.
“Our clinical staff who cared for Mr Scott acted entirely appropriately, and in line with national guidelines.
“He was monitored for longer than is recommended in the guidelines and was not discharged from hospital early.”
Verdict – Open.