Out of hours service at Dorset hospital put patients at risk says coroner

Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester has been urged to make changes to its out of hours services after a Wareham woman bled to death following a hip replacement operation.

In a report following the death of 79-year-old Christine Booker, published on Tuesday May 28th 2024, Dorset Coroner Brendan Allen said that patients from the west of Dorset who had to be transferred to Bournemouth in the east of the county, were being exposed to delays in treatment and to a greater risk of dying.

The Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance flew Christine Booker to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital

Christine Booker was flown to Bournemouth as Dorset County Hospital had no out of hours interventional radiology service

Decision made to fly patient to Bournemouth

Christine Booker, of Wareham, had a private operation at the Winterbourne Hospital in Dorchester, but lost a lot of blood when a surgeon drilled into her hip socket to insert a 20 millimetre screw.

Although she initially appeared to recover, her blood pressure dropped dramatically three hours later and Christine Booker was rushed to Dorset County Hospital at 7 pm on Thursday 23rd February 2023.

But the county hospital had no out of hours interventional radiology – also known as pinhole or image guided surgery, using x-ray or ultrasound – to look inside patients while carrying out non invasive surgery.

A decision was made to fly her 27 miles by air ambulance to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, arriving shortly after 10 pm, but although she underwent a procedure to stop the blood flow, Christine Booker died the following day from haemorrhagic shock.

Following an inquest into the death, which finished on Friday 17th May 2024, Dorset Coroner Brendan Allen has issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report which has been sent to Matthew Bryant, chief executive of the Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

His official letter makes it clear that patients in Purbeck face a significant delay in the provision of life-saving treatment, putting them at a greater risk of dying.

The inquest into the death of Christine Booker was held at the Bournemouth Civic Centre

“Exposed to increased risk of death”

Brendan Allen said:

“During the inquest, evidence was heard that there is no out of hours interventional radiology at Dorset County Hospital.

“Patients requiring this potentially urgent and life saving intervention that live in the west of the county require transfer to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital for treatment.

“This exposes these patients to a potentially considerable and significant delay in the provision of urgent and life-saving treatment, which, in turn, exposes them to an increased risk of death.

“In my opinion, urgent action should be taken to prevent future deaths.”

Dorset County Hospital sign
Dorset County Hospital

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is obliged to respond to the report

Hospital obliged to respond

Brendan Allen added that he believed Matthew Bryant and the Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have the power to take such action.

They are obliged to respond to the coroner by Tuesday 23rd July 2024 with details of action the hospital has taken, or proposes to take, along with a timetable – or explain why no action is proposed.


The hip replacement operation took place at Winterbourne Hospital, Dorchester

“It’s miles to travel”

Christine and her husband Peter, 84, had celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary shortly before the operation.

Speaking to the BBC, Christine Booker’s daughter Simone Evans said:

“If you centralise (health services) for a whole county… it’s miles to travel. I agree with the coroner.”

The inquest, at the Coroner’s Court in Bournemouth Civic Centre, recorded that Christine died following a complication of elective hip replacement surgery, with the medical cause of death being haemorrhagic shock.

Dorset County Hospital’s Chief Executive Matthew Bryant said:

“We would like to express our sincere condolences to Mrs Booker’s family. We are mindful that the circumstances surrounding her death, and the subsequent inquest, will have added to their distress and are sorry for this.

“Out of hours specialised interventional radiology services in Dorset are provided by University Hospitals Dorset at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

“As happened in this case, if a patient presents at Dorset County Hospital as an emergency in the evening or weekends, and then needs a specialist interventional radiology procedure, they are transferred to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital or other centre by blue light ambulance or helicopter.”

erial view of Dorset County Hospital

A £90 million project to upgrade facilities is getting under way at Dorset County Hospital

£90m project to upgrade hospital

A £90 million project to expand and upgrade the emergency department at Dorset County Hospital is planned. The current department is used by 50,000 patients a year – twice the number it was originally intended for.

Along with a new 24-bed critical care unit, it will be the largest capital investment at the county hospital since it opened on the current site in 1998.

Construction of the new units, on part of the site of the former Damers School building in Dorchester, is part of the government’s new hospital programme.

Although the project began its initial stages in 2023, it’s believed that the main building work has not yet started.

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