A grieving family is taking legal action against a Lancaster hospital and surgeon after the death of a much-loved mum.
Sally Ann Tooze-Froggatt, a teaching assistant at Dallas Road School in Lancaster, collapsed and died on Easter Sunday 2015 after developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) four days after knee surgery.
The coroner at the inquest into her death criticised medical staff at BMI The Lancaster Hospital for “basic errors”.
Lawyers acting for the family said those responsible should be held to account.
The hospital has apologised and changed procedures following Mrs Tooze-Froggatt’s death.
Sally’s husband Paul Froggatt, 54, said the whole family had been left distraught by her death. He said: “Nothing can bring Sally back and our lives have been devastated as a result.
“Sally went into hospital for a routine knee operation and days later she had died, which is very difficult for us to comprehend.
“How do you come to terms with the fact that opportunities to prevent her death were missed?
“I don’t think you can but it would bring us comfort to know that these mistakes will not be made again and no other patients will suffer as Sally did.”
Sally’s son, Peter Tooze-Froggatt, said: “Because of what happened, my mum, and the family, will miss many precious years together, including my sister’s wedding and holding her first grandchild.
“She loved helping others, and would always put their needs before her own. She will not only be missed by her family, but anyone who knew her: be it her colleagues and pupils, or even those who knew her just in passing.”
Coroner Dr James Adeley said Mrs Tooze-Froggatt, 52, died “following multiple missed opportunities to treat her high risk of venous thromboembolism that would have saved her life”.
Factors that included a strong family history of DVT and her taking the combined contraceptive pill, which put her at high risk, were not acted on by the hospital.
The post mortem found multiple blood clots in Mrs Tooze-Froggatt’s lungs. The cause of death was recorded as “pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis contributed to by a right knee cartilage repair and oral contraceptive pill”.
The inquest heard clinical guidelines said patients should consider stopping taking oestrogen-containing oral contraceptives four weeks before elective surgery.
It was also recommended that patients at increased risk of DVT - Mrs Tooze-Froggatt’s father died of a pulmonary embolism - should be offered preventative treatment. But neither happened before the surgery.
And because her surgery came on the day before a Bank Holiday weekend, no follow-up call had been made by the hospital to check how she was.
Dr Adeley said the consultant in charge of Mrs Tooze-Froggatt’s case had not known she was taking the pill and he had not asked any questions about family history.
In its response to the coroner, the hospital has now apologised for the errors and produced a plan outlining the actions it has taken and changes it has made.
Preoperative assessment policy has changed so that nurses must now confirm that consultants have been made aware of any DVT risk factors.
Risk assessment forms updated to reflect it has been reviewed by a consultant pre theatre and in theatre.
Retraining of staff in prevention of DVT.
Process put in place to ensure staff are on a rota to complete follow up calls to all discharged patients and an out-of-hours medical worker to make calls when the hospital is closed within 24-hours of discharge.
Matt Tippin, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at law firm JMW acting for the family, said although the response from the BMI showed it had taken learning lessons seriously, the individuals involved in her care must be held to account.
He said: “The errors in Sally’s case were shocking and showed little regard for her safety. It is reassuring that the hospital has acknowledged that things needed to change however it is extremely sad that a much loved mother and wife had to die for that to happen.
“As well as making these top level changes to policy it is vital that the individuals involved are held to account and appreciate the errors were completely unacceptable.
“As such we are taking legal action on the family’s behalf against the surgeon with overall responsibility for her care as well as the BMI. We hope to give Sally’s family the peace of mind that the risk of this happening to anyone else is minimised.”
A spokesman for BMI Healthcare said: “The Lancaster Hospital is very sorry for the omissions which the coroner has ruled were missed opportunities to prevent the death of Mrs Sally Ann Tooze-Froggatt.
“Our sincere thoughts remain with Mrs Tooze-Froggatt’s family. We regret that hospital and BMI procedures were not followed.
“We have already changed our procedures and conducted an investigation, which we will now review in the light of the coroner’s conclusion to identify what further learning can be drawn. Patient care and safety are our utmost priorities.”