Whitby man wins ruling after brother’s “unneccessary” death

Northgate Hospital
Northgate Hospital

A WHITBY man’s brother died in his arms after serious failings in the care he received from the NHS and his local authority, an Ombudsman’s report has found.

David Parsons (53) suffered from Down’s syndrome, although he was extremely high-functioning, and the report found that his human rights were breached when he was moved away from his wife and family and detained, first in hospital unnecessarily and then in inappropriate locked accommodation.

David regularly visited his older brother Roger in Whitby, and it was Roger who first lodged the complaint against those he felt were responsible for David’s death.

Roger Parsons, who lives on the Barratt estate near Eskdale School said: “He was bright, caring, funny and very intelligent, he was my kid brother.

“He was always telling me ‘I’m a man’ and he used to come down and visit me in Whitby quite often.”

Warning signs first emerged during a visit to Whitby in 2005 when David appeared sluggish and ill, although by the time the visit was over Roger was confident he was back to normal: “As we were driving home, “I said to my wife ‘I feel much better, David is really on form’.

“Then I was stunned when nine days later, without telling his family,

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they put him in Northgate Hospital in Morpeth and were giving him medication and said we couldn’t take him home.

“We could take him out for four hours and when we left him I would look through the window and see David crying his eyes out and banging his head against the door frame.”

David had been diagnosed with dementia and epilepsy, but despite being quickly declared ready for discharge, he was kept in hospital for a further five months.

Then, along with his wife Lesley, he was placed in locked accommodation, instead of being allowed to return home.

However, after a long battle, Roger was beginning to make headway in terms of regaining access to his brother, and during Christmas 2006 David was able to spend time in Whitby.

“I was able to look after him by myself, without problem,” said Roger.

“He would smile at me, and sigh thankfully.

“Then when he went back there in February he seemed to lose the will to live.”

Their next visit was scheduled for after Easter, but just weeks before Roger received a phone call saying his brother had been rushed to hospital after contracting pneumonia.

Roger and their eldest brother George rushed to David’s side, where they were told there was nothing the hospital could do to save him.

David added: “I was told that David was about to go, and I couldn’t believe it.

“I woke at around five in the morning and David was sitting up in bed and I immediately realised he had trouble breathing.

“I tried to clear his throat but it was full of mucus.

“David died, I watched this fantastic, good-looking lad drown in front of me.

“It’s such a shame, he didn’t have to die.”

David Parsons died on Easter Monday in 2007, but in a report published yesterday (23 Nov), a joint investigation by a Health Service Ombudsman and a Local Government Ombudsman found significant failings by both the Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council.

Health service ombudsman Ann Abraham said: “David’s family were wrongly denied the opportunity to be involved and will never know if they could have made a difference to his quality of life in those last months, which must be a cause of significant and ongoing distress for them.”

Following the investigation, the NHS Trust and the council agreed to provide David’s family with a full acknowledgment of the mistakes they made, together with an apology.

They also agreed to pay £2,000 in recognition of the distress caused, which the family intends to donate to Down’s syndrome charities.