NHS Borders says it is “very sorry” for the care given to a patient who waited months for surgery and then got a blood infection.
The patient, referred to as ‘C’, complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) that the care they received from the region’s health board was “unreasonable”.
According to a report from the regulator, C waited several months for keyhole surgery for the removal of their gallbladder.
NHS Borders said the delay was due to a lack of intensive care unit (ICU) beds.
After undergoing the surgery, C did not improve and developed both a wound abscess – a painful swelling caused by a build-up of pus – and sepsis.
The ombudsman’s report reads: “C raised concerns that there were unreasonable delays to their initial surgery, which allowed their condition to deteriorate.
“C also complained that there was not enough care taken during their two surgeries and they developed sepsis, which they considered could have been avoided.”
The report says the SPSO took advice from a consultant general surgeon and a nurse before ruling that the care C received was unreasonable.
However, the ombudsman found that the initial surgery, and the surgery to drain their abscess, was carried out appropriately, while the diagnosis and management of their sepsis “was also reasonable”.
“We found that the sequence of events, the management of C’s booking for surgery, the preoperative assessment, C’s medical state, and the anaesthetic view did not support the board’s statement that the delay in C’s operation was due to lack of ICU beds,” the report states.
“In addition, we found that the board failed to meet the Treatment Time Guarantee in C’s case and to properly advise them of this under the relevant regulations.”
Responding to the report, an NHS Borders spokesperson said: “The SPSO findings highlighted that some aspects of care that C received were unacceptable.
“We have accepted the recommendations identified in full and have started to make the changes required so that similar experiences are avoided in the future.
“We are very sorry for the upset that our failings have caused C and have offered a full apology.”
The SPSO says it asked the health board to apologise to the patient “for the failings identified”.
For future cases, NHS Borders has been recommended to ensure that patients admitted as an emergency receive “a timely appointment”.
The report adds: “The board should take all reasonably practical steps to manage patients scheduled for gallbladder surgery without delay and in line with the Treatment Time Guarantee with appropriate assessment of risk for ICU beds.”