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Neglect verdict after death at private hospital

Michael Walsh, father of BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh, died following neglect

Michael and Fergus Walsh in 2008

14 May 2010

Mr Michael Walsh, 85, was admitted to the BMI Shelburne Hospital in High Wycombe (part of the BMI and General Healthcare Groups) for a routine prostate operation on 10 February 2009.

Three days after surgery Mr Walsh became confused, agitated, delusional and started acting completely out of character. Nursing staff at the private hospital responded promptly and appropriately, calling both the Consultant and Mr Walsh's son, Fergus, into the hospital and arranging extra nursing cover. The following day, 14 February 2009, Mr Walsh's condition fluctuated. In the evening, he again became very disturbed, repeatedly saying that he wanted to leave the hospital. In stark contrast to the previous evening, and despite a failed attempt to sedate Mr Walsh, neither the Consultant nor any family members were called and Mr Walsh was left unattended. Sadly, he opened the patio doors in his room, walked out onto the balcony and fell some 15 feet suffering severe injuries including a fractured spine.

Mr Walsh was transferred to the NHS Wexham Park hospital, Slough, where he soon lapsed into unconsciousness and died on 16 February.

After the jury returned their unanimous findings of neglect, Mr Walsh's children, Fergus, Fiona, Breffni and Barry said:

"Our dad, Michael Walsh, was an engaging and scholarly man whose passions were history and horse-racing. 

Despite his age he was a keen cyclist and was regularly seen around Beaconsfield, on his tricycle, doing his shopping.

He was an independent man who loved to be with his family. What happened to him was a wholly avoidable tragedy.

The jury found there was a series of gross failures which amounted to neglect. A confused and highly vulnerable 85 year old man was left alone in his room which had unlocked patio doors. In his confusion he fell 15 feet from a balcony onto concrete, on a freezing February night, and suffered serious injuries, leaving him in immense pain. His injuries and the pneumonia which resulted, directly led to his death. This was an awful way for anyone to end their life and it must never happen again."

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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