Doctors were ordered to apologise by Scotland’s ombudsman after 72-year-old William Rae lost nearly a sixth of his body weight in under two months, dropping to under seven stone while he was in a care home.
His daughter Jacqui Rae, from Mortonhall, said it was “heartbreaking” to watch her father disappear before her eyes and insisted he was never the same up to his death a year later.
The former bar steward was treated at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in May 2014 after suffering a stroke and then sent to privately run Cairdean House in Oxgangs, which acts as a step-down unit for patients who need rehabilitation before going home.
Mr Rae suffered a fall at the care home on July 7, leaving him in pain and refusing to eat, but he was not taken to hospital for more than four weeks as GPs at Oxgangs Path Surgery felt it was better for him to remain in the unit.
When he was finally taken back to the ERI, doctors discovered Mr Rae was badly dehydrated, doubly incontinent and emaciated after losing nearly a stone and a half in weight.
Jacqui, 55, said she argued repeatedly with doctors that he should have been hospitalised after his fall but she felt like she was being ignored. She said: “No-one should have to suffer like my father did. I kept thinking of the doctors: ‘How would you feel if it was your father there?’. He lost all of his dignity. It was heartbreaking.”
Jim Martin, Scotland’s ombudsman, found the GP practice had failed to properly assess Mr Rae and a dietician should have been called in as he had lost “a significant” amount of weight.
He criticised “sparse” record keeping and also found there was an unacceptable delay in prescribing Mr Rae with antibiotics for a suspected urinary tract infection.
The tragic case may be symptomatic of a wider problem in elderly care, warned Dr Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association.
She said: “It’s a very sad story and I think that it is the kind of thing that may be happening more frequently than we would like but people aren’t complaining.
“Many people who have a stroke can recover to have a reasonably good quality of life.”
A spokesperson for Craiglockart Medical Group, which includes Oxgangs Path Surgery, said: “We take the findings of this report very seriously, have reflected on them as a team, and are carrying out the recommendations made.”
Liz McKeegan, regional director of Care UK, which runs Cairdean House, said: “We shared all our observations and our concerns relating to the deterioration of [Mr Rae’s] health with the GPs.
“The team made every effort to encourage him to eat and drink and called an out-of-hours GP when our nurses felt that he had an infection.
“The care home team followed the directions of the GP and reported back to them.”