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Man sues NHS for £200,000 over delays that led to his wife's death

A WIDOWER is suing the Scottish NHS for around £200,000 after a series of errors led to his wife's death.

GRIEF: Alastair Laing holds a picture of his wife Judith, who died in Inverclyde Royal Hospital in January 2009. Main picture: Colin Mearns
GRIEF: Alastair Laing holds a picture of his wife Judith, who died in Inverclyde Royal Hospital in January 2009. Main picture: Colin Mearns

Alastair Laing, who had been married to Judith for 45 years, said the sad events that marked the last weeks of her life would never leave his head.

In a ruling following a fatal accident inquiry, Sheriff Derek Hamilton concluded her death could have been avoided if it was not for delays in correctly diagnosing her condition.

Mr Laing, from Port Glasgow, has now revealed he is seeking compensation because he wants the NHS to take notice of what went wrong and make sure it does not happen again.

He said Mrs Laing, who was 65, was still working five days a week as a school cleaning supervisor when she became unwell.

He recalled: "We got into bed and a few hours later she woke me up and said she had a pain in her stomach."

Mrs Laing, who later began vomiting, was suffering from a strangulated hernia in her bowel – when part of the blood supply is cut off. Newsreader Jackie Bird fell ill with the same problem and had emergency surgery before Christmas.

The inquiry heard Mrs Laing was examined by three GPs who did not identify what was wrong, and when she was admitted to Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock she was not fully examined by a senior doctor for four days.

Mrs Laing had an operation nine days after she became unwell, and died seven weeks later from a post-operative infection. Sheriff Hamilton said if her symptoms had been correctly interpreted at an earlier stage it was unlikely she would have required such extensive surgery. He expressed concern that effectively no senior doctor took charge of Mrs Laing's care in the hospital.

Mr Laing, 71, a retired pipe fitter, said: "It never entered my head Judith would not be coming out of hospital again. I always thought she would get better.

"It was sad to see her [in intensive care]. She was someone who always looked immaculate. She was a really brilliant person. I miss her so much."

After she died, on January 29, 2009, he said the case was automatically handed over to the procurator-fiscal and his family organised legal representation.

He said he would never know if the NHS would make changes in the light of what happened and seeking compensation appeared to be the only way he could attract attention.

Mr Laing said: "It is the only weapon we have got to try and make them change their attitude towards people. We hope it stops this happening to someone else."

Cameron Fyfe, of solicitors Drummond Miller, said he expected the case to take months to conclude. He said: "The sheriff's judgment certainly strengthens the family's claim for compensation."

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which is in charge of services at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, said: "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on any legal matters at this time."

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