Man ripped out catheter left for six months by NHS

Staff at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary left the catheter in for six months. Picture: Gareth Easton
Staff at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary left the catheter in for six months. Picture: Gareth Easton
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A PATIENT was left in excruciating pain for six months after blundering Royal Infirmary staff left a 20cm tube in his bladder.

Staff failed to check the man’s catheter had been fully and properly removed before sending him home.

He then went on to experience recurrent urinary tract infections and it was only after he was referred to a specialist the foreign object was found.

To make matters worse, NHS Lothian then incorrectly suggested in correspondence with the patient’s wife that he had passed away and called him by the wrong name.

Since the shock incident a new system of recording basic nursing duties has been introduced by NHS Lothian chiefs – who say they are determined to prevent a repeat episode.

Dr Jean Turner, a former MSP and anaesthetist who is now director of the Scotland Patient Association, said the failures amounted to a “form of abuse” by the NHS.

She said: “Sometimes patients remove things but this was a large piece of catheter so how come they didn’t notice? You would assume a nurse must have checked it, it’s such a basic thing. It’s the same as checking the instruments in a theatre. If you are taking something out of someone’s body you want to know every bit has been removed.

“If your body has a foreign object in it will constantly try to reject it. I hope there will be some discipline and governance within the health board over this and all of the nurses get a chatting to.”

It is believed that the patient removed the catheter during an episode of confusion while in the Royal Infirmary last year.

The case was brought before the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, which found no evidence that nursing staff had ensured the catheter was removed safely or followed NHS Lothian’s own guidelines for urinary catheter care.

The complaint was upheld, with NHS Lothian told to apologise for the episode, review guidelines on urinary catheter care and draw its findings to the attention of relevant staff.

Sarah Ballard-Smith, NHS Lothian’s nurse director, offered her “sincerest apologies” for what she admitted were “poor standards of care”.

She added: “We recently introduced a new system of documenting basic nursing care, including continence and catheter care. This system requires nursing staff to document catheter status, bag checks and note removal. This forms part of a regular checking system for patients.

“This new way of working also ensures that catheter checks are dated and signed during every shift. Patients put their faith in our staff to provide, above all else, safe and effective care. Clearly the high standards of care we expect to provide have not been met here and we are determined to stop incidences like this from occurring in the future.”

daniel.sanderson@edinburghnews.com