Colinton OAP sent home from Western General alone in taxi and left outside

Alexander Withnell, pictured with son Melvin, was left stranded. Picture: Jon Savage
Alexander Withnell, pictured with son Melvin, was left stranded. Picture: Jon Savage
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A FRAIL pensioner was abandoned outside his home late at night after a hospital discharged him without telling his family.

Alexander Withnell was sent home in a taxi alone from the Western General after being treated for fluid in his lungs.

But the 78-year-old, who suffers from a heart condition among other health problems, is unable to climb the stairs to his Colinton flat by himself and so was left sitting outside the block for 20 minutes on a bench.

His 89-year-old wife, Isabella, noticed him loitering outside and made her way downstairs to fetch him a wheelchair but as she lifted him into it, she lost her balance and fell. The couple were then both stranded in the stairwell until their son, Melvin, returned home from work around 15 minutes later. They then found that the pensioner still had a cannula stuck in his arm from hospital.

NHS Lothian has apologised and promised a full investigation.

But Melvin, 47, said today he was “outraged” at his father’s treatment. “My dad was in no fit state to be sent home in a taxi alone, whether doctors thought he looked well enough or not. By the time I got him inside he was distressed and shivering. I am absolutely appalled. My mum also hurt herself trying to get him inside.

“To finish it off he still had the cannula in his arm from the hospital, and when I called them to let them know they told me to remove it myself – which I was very uncomfortable with as his arm was all bruised.”

Around 9pm last Monday, Mr Withnell had contacted his son at work to let him know he was being discharged by ambulance. But when Melvin tried to contact the hospital to clarify the situation, he was unable to get through and quickly made his way to the Western General.

Melvin said: “When he told me he was getting discharged in an ambulance I thought it was weird no-one had bothered to phone me to let me know. Assuming he was still there as I hadn’t heard from anyone at the hospital, I arrived just after 10 o’clock to be told my dad had been discharged 20 minutes earlier – in a taxi. I was so angry, and I began to panic at the thought of him being alone.

“I rushed home to discover both my mum and dad at the bottom of the stairs. The whole thing is totally unacceptable. I should have been made aware he was being discharged, and by what means.”

Jason Rust, local councillor for the Conservative Party, branded the situation “appalling”. He said: “There needs to be a thorough investigation and prompt action to ensure this type of situation never arises again. I am astonished about the complete lack of communication.”

Jim Crombie, of NHS Lothian, said: “I would like to apologise to Mr Withnell and his family for any distress caused during this very unusual incident. We are investigating thoroughly to establish what happened and we will be in contact with the family.”