Man given fatal overdose at Whiston Hospital

Norma Whalley, widow of Colin Whalley, in front of a phototgraph of him with their daughter Jacqui Whalley
Norma Whalley, widow of Colin Whalley, in front of a phototgraph of him with their daughter Jacqui Whalley

The widow of a St Helens man who was given a fatal overdose at Whiston Hospital says she won’t be able to move forward with her life until she gets answers.

Norma Whalley’s husband of 49 years, Colin, died on November 18, 2011, after being administered with 24 hours worth of intravenous aminophylline in just 20 minutes.

Mr Whalley, 68, a grandfather-of-three and great grandfather-of-five who had suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease since 2004, had been hospitalised with breathing problems two days earlier.

Mrs Whalley said: “I still get upset every day and struggle to sleep. What happened to Colin is in my mind every hour of every day – it just never goes away. They didn’t even tell me he was dying until it was too late.

“I’m still angry about everything that’s gone on and want justice for what they did to him. The last two years have been very, very tough for us all. It’s affected our health and even affected the grandchildren.”

At a pre-inquest review at St Helens Town Hall yesterday, coroner Christopher Sumner revealed that “only in the last 24 hours” had the hospital trust’s letter of apology to the family and letter of admission been received.

Inquest proceedings were belatedly started after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the medics involved.

Witnesses at the two to three-day inquest - set to be held at St Helens Town Hall in April 2014 - will include the senior doctor who prescribed the medication, the nurses who administered it and the ward manager who first spotted Mr Whalley’s deteriorating condition.

A statement will also be read from Mrs Whalley who, the court was told, “would like to have a voice in the proceedings”.

Mrs Whalley, 69, of Rivington Road, Dentons Green, added: “The hospital knew from the start what had gone on. I never left his side in hospital - I was there 24/7 - so I take their apology and admission with a pinch of salt.

“I just hope the inquest provides us with the answers we need. Until then, we won’t be able to move forward with our lives.”

A spokeswoman for St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust said lessons had been learnt.

She said: “The trust has unreservedly apologised for an error which meant Mr Whalley received an infusion of medication over too short a period of time and quickly carried out a full investigation. It was concluded that the staff involved had failed to follow the appropriate guidance.

“At the time of the incident the trust openly acknowledged that an error had occurred and apologised to Mr Whalley’s family. However, due to the length of time that the subsequent legal process has taken, it is only now that the trust is able to provide Mrs Whalley and her family with a formal written apology.”