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PRE-BUDGET STATEMENT: Hospital letter to patient who died last year; NHS SCANDAL: THE CASE OF RON COOKSEY.

Byline: ROD CHAYTOR

HEALTH chiefs wrote to Ron Cooksey to tell him his heart condition was not life-threatening - 11 months after it killed him.

The hospital letter arrived last week at the home the 69-year-old widower shared with son, Neil, 31.

It said the operation he was waiting for was not an emergency.

The former factory worker died from heart failure last December.

Mr Cooksey's other son, Gary, 33, said: "I'm outraged. I know it's a computer error, but don't they check before sending these things?

"My father should never have been on a waiting list. A letter 11 months later just compounds the error. I am utterly disgusted."

Ron, from Tamworth, Staffs, was said by his son to be "as fit as a fiddle" until he started suffering heart problems and water retention in December 1999. A month later his GP sent him to a consultant at the Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield.

He was told he needed to have a replacement valve and was then referred to the specialist heart unit at the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry.

In September 2000 he went to the Walsgrave where a specialist told him he was being placed on the priority list for heart surgery.

A month later Gary Cooksey phoned the Walsgrave and was told his father had been transferred to the non-urgent list and was likely to wait nine months.

Days later Ron's condition rapidly deteriorated. Then on November 10 he was re-admitted to the Good Hope Hospital and never came out.

He died from heart failure in the cardiac ward on December 16.

Gary, a stock controller, said: "I couldn't believe it when my brother Neil phoned to say he had opened a letter for Dad from the Walsgrave.

"We are angry and upset, not only about the letter but also the standard of care Dad received.

"It says a lot about the Government and Mr Blair's NHS."

The letter was from the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and arrived last Thursday.

The letter started: "Dear Mr Cooksey, I am writing to you as I know you are currently on our waiting list for coronary artery bypass surgery."

It was one of hundreds sent out by the trust after figures showed Walsgrave Hospital had the worst survival rate for heart bypass surgery in the country.

Trust communications boss John Richardson said yesterday: "I apologise unreservedly.

"The letter makes the distinction between waiting lists, and emergency patients who need operations within hours.

"It was sent out to try and reassure patients."

Recent Government figures show deaths from bypass surgery at Walsgrave were almost four times higher than the best units - with up to 40 more deaths in the past five years. Death rates were highest at the hospital in 1999/2000.

CAPTION(S):

DEAD: Ron Cooksey; FURIOUS: Gary Cooksey; TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: The letter sent to Ron Cooksey 11 months after his death telling him not to worry about heart bypass surgery
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 28, 2001
Words:495
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