December 10 2013 Latest news:
Monday, October 7, 2013
A suspected hospital murder was not reported to police until 10 days after the patient’s death, prompting questions from coastal MPs.
Retired driving instructor James May, 76, died at the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) in Gorleston on September 20.
Detectives - who were contacted by the hospital on September 30 - are now investigating whether a hospital worker gave Mr May a drugs overdose in the lead-up to his death.
A middle-aged man, described as “a member of the hospital’s medical staff”, was arrested on Saturday morning on suspicion of murder.
He was bailed that evening until an unspecified date in November, while the investigation continues.
And MPs are demanding answers over the 10-day “gap” before action was taken.
Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said: “I think the hospital has some work to do to clarify why this took 10 days to be reported.
“If there was a whistleblower involved, it’s admirable that there was an atmosphere in which that could happen but they need to clarify why it took so long.”
He added it should be made clear whether a whistleblower took days to come forward, or whether alarm bells were sounded immediately but the hospital did not pass the information to police until September 30.
“I hope it’s isolated,” added Mr Lewis. “I know the hospital will co-operate in any way it can with the police.”
Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP, said: “I think it’s important for there to be an explanation from the hospital on that time gap.”
But she noted the complexity of the situation, with legal proceedings active.
“One of the difficulties is getting the balance between what they can divulge now and what is reserved for the [police] investigation,” she said.
Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, said his thoughts were with the family of the deceased.
He added there may be a “perfectly logical explanation” for the period between the death and the police being alerted, but that it is “important that that’s addressed”.
Mr May, who was known as Jimmy, was a divorcee who lived alone in Great Yarmouth.
He had been admitted to hospital the evening before his death, dying soon after in the early hours.
The hospital reported an allegation of medical malpractice in connection with his death to police 10 days later.
Mr May’s death is being treated as suspicious and an investigation, led by the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team, is currently underway.
A hospital worker came in to the police by appointment on Saturday morning, and was then arrested.
Senior investigating officer detective chief inspector Paul Durham said: “We are investigating an allegation that a drugs overdose was administered to a patient, leading to his death.
“A Home Office post-mortem, carried out earlier this week, determined the cause of Mr May’s death as heart failure and we now await the results of further toxicology tests which will help inform our inquiry.
“We understand that this news may generate concern and it’s important for us to underline that our investigation, which is still at an early stage, is based on a single report of an isolated incident and that the hospital trust is co-operating fully with the investigation.”
The Home Office post-mortem examination was carried out at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) on Wednesday, October 2.
Mr May’s next of kin have been informed and are being supported by police family liaison officers.
Christine Allen, chief executive of the JPH, said: “Our thoughts are with the family of this patient at what is a very difficult time.
“Our priority is patient safety and we understand that this news will cause concern.
“At this time, we believe it is an isolated incident and relates to the alleged action of a single member of staff.
“The member of staff against whom the allegation has been made is absent from the trust and will not return until the investigation is completed.
“Throughout this difficult period, the JPH will continue to provide the best possible care to our patients and we are fully co-operating with the police.”
In a written tribute to this paper, three people describing Mr May as a “neighbour and very good friend” expressed their sadness.
They wrote: “You were one in a million and will be sadly missed. Sleep peacefully.”
Anyone with any concerns or who may wish to speak to an officer with information in relation to the inquiry can contact the Major Investigation Team on 01953 424533 or 424528.
The lines will be open between 9am and 5pm and all calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.