Daughters wrongly told their dad was dead


A HEARTBROKEN daughter said a tearful telephone goodbye to her dying father only to be told later she had been put through to the wrong man.

Leanne Stewart phoned Edinburgh Royal Infirmary from Australia last month to ask about the health of father, David,  65, who had suffered a stroke.

Bungling staff made their first horrendous blunder by telling Leanne her dad was dying.

Leanne (left) qnd Kirsty (right) were shaken after the catastrophic blunder


They then put her through to the wrong patient – who died during the midnight conversation.

The distraught 33-year-old passed on the awful news to the rest of the family only to be told by the hospital at 1am there had been a “terrible mistake”.

The hospital explained that she had been put through to a patient who had a similar name while her father was alive and recovering.

Crisis-hit NHS Lothian, which recently announced it was hiring hundreds more staff to deal with a waiting lists crisis, has now apologised for the blunder.

The Scotland Patients Association today demanded that  “ someone’s head should roll” over the error.

Leanne’s sister Kirsty, 30, from Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, was so upset on hearing of her father’s “death” she needed to seek medical treatment.

She said: “Leanne said her goodbyes down the phone to someone as they lost him.

“She phoned me and asked me to phone the hospital just to make sure.

“I was told the same thing and they asked whether I could go in to pick up the death certificate.

“I was in disbelief – I had seen him at 8pm.”

She added: “He wasn’t great then but he was conscious and chatty so I couldn’t understand it.

“But they mentioned an irregular heartbeat, which I knew he was experiencing, so that made me believe it was him.”


“Peace of mind”

Kirsty said she got back in touch with her mother in England and Leanne in Australia.

“They were trying to book flights back and I was trying to plan everything.

“Then an hour later we got a call saying there had been a mistake.”

She continued:”After everything we’ve been through it’s been completely unacceptable.

“If they’d just asked for a date of birth the mistake would never have happened.

“My sister is still trying to come home from Australia to see her dad for her own peace of mind.”

She said the family received a heartfelt apology from the nurse responsible for the blunder.

But she now has other concerns about the care received by her father, who is also from Bonnyrigg.

She said he had fallen and banged his head when trying to reach for a buzzer placed too far away, and he had been allowed to lie in his own vomit.

He was admitted on 24 October and the family were told about his “death” the next day.

He has since been transferred to Astley Ainslie Hospital, Edinburgh, where he is making steady progress.

David’s ex-wife, Eleanor Stewart, 64, received a frantic phone call from Kirsty saying David had died as she was visiting her brother in England.

She immediately booked a flight back to Scotland, though the cost has not been met by NHS Lothian.

Eleanor, who remains close to her ex-husband, said: “We were trying to get flights and I was worrying, thinking about arranging the funeral.

“I was trying to keep it together for my daughters.

“The two of them were traumatised. Then they phoned back saying sorry and that it had been a mistake.

“They said it was a coincidence because the men had similar names.

“The guy who made the mistake was so upset and couldn’t apologise enough, but it was a mistake that should never have happened.

“It was just terrible.

“Kirsty had to go to the doctors because she’s been getting nightmares. It’s been so distressing.”



Melanie Hornett, NHS Lothian’s nurse director, said: “The incident has been investigated and recorded.

“It was a case of human error and a mix-up between two patients of a similar name.

“As soon as the incident was identified, we informed the family, explained the circumstances and apologised.

“We worked with the family to address and resolve any concerns they had during the patient’s stay and we were not told of any other outstanding isues.

“We would urge the family to contact us so that we may discuss them.”

But Margaret Watt, of Scotland Patients Association, said: “It’s shocking, what a thing to do.

“It’s totally unacceptable and someone’s head should roll, it’s a very serious and inhuman thing to do.

“An apology isn’t good enough. They’ve turned this family’s world upside down.

“It takes more than one person to pronounce someone dead.

“I would like to think NHS Lothian would be much more robust knowing the trouble they’re in.”

Earlier this year, the family of another patient at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary were told she was “technically dead”, before she came back to life 45 minutes later.

Grandmother Lorna Baillie, who had suffered a massive heart attack, opened her eyes and squeezed her daughters hand despite medics withdrawing treatment from the 49-year-old.