Cancer patient died alone in hotel room after hospital sent him there to free up beds
Hospital routinely sends chemotherapy patients to nearby hotel between treatments
Panic alarms had not been installed in hotel rooms for two years as they 'weren't used'
A cancer patient died alone in a hotel room after he was moved there from hospital as part of his chemotherapy treatment.
Ian Curtis, 39, was being treated for a type of blood cancer at the University College London Hospital.
As part of the treatment programme he was sent to the nearby Radisson Edwardian Grafton Hotel between doses of chemotherapy to rest and recuperate.
The Grafton Hotel in London where Mr Curtis' body was found by his wife last November
Mr Curtis, from Kent, was seen at the
hospital for the last time on Monday, November 1, during his second
round on intensive chemotherapy, a coroner's inquest heard on Monday.
Nursing staff who assessed him said he showed no 'symptoms or signs of infection.'
Mr Curtis then suffered diarrhoea just hours later in his hotel room, most likely as a result of an infection, pathologist Dr Suhail
Baithun said. He said he would have suffered severe dehydration.
Dr Kirit Ardeshna added that this would
have been due to an 'absolutely catastrophic infection' and he would
have collapsed and died suddenly.
His dead body was discovered the next day in his hotel room by his visiting wife.
Mr Curtis was being
treated for an aggressive cancer, although doctors told the inquest he
had an 'over 50 per cent chance' of surviving.
Under the 'ambulatory chemotherapy service' at UCLH, patients have been routinely discharged to nearby hotel rooms so they can rest between doses, St Pancras Coroner’s Court was told.
The hotel is 200 yards from the hospital
and a hospital spokesman said patients are checked once a day by a team
of doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Initially, patients who were on this
scheme – based on a widespread practice in US hospitals – were given
panic alarms to alert the hospital if anything went wrong.
were also fitted in hotel rooms next to beds, but the hospital stopped
installing them in July 2011 after a review found one had not been
activated for two years.
The hospital said today it was 'reviewing policies and procedure' after an internal investigation.
College London Hospital says it rents hotel rooms for patients in the middle of
treatment because it frees up beds for the sickest patients.
The University College London Hospital, which routinely sends patients to a nearby hotel to recover between chemotherapy treatments
The 'ambulatory chemotherapy' system at UCLH has also been a big money-saver for the hospital.
Between 2007 and 2010 the hospital spent more than 1m on rooms at the Grafton Hotel for its chemotherapy patients.
Dr Ardeshna told the inquest: 'We formed a relationship with one of the local hotels so that patients who were having relatively complex chemotherapy would have it in the outpatient facility.
'If all was well they would be allowed to stay in the hotel.
'It is certainly cheaper in terms of bed costs because we are paying the costs of a hotel room rather than a functioning bed that would have been five times more expensive.'
He added that 'patients prefer it on the whole' in hotels because family and friends could be around them and 'they get a breakfast'.
The scheme has been widened in recent years to allow patients to stay in the hotel rooms alone without a carer by their side so that more people could qualify for the scheme.
Coroner Selina Lynch said Mr Curtis’s symptoms had not been ignored by the hospital but he had been 'extremely unlucky' to become 'acutely unwell' when he was on his own, his condition deteriorating with 'not even enough time for him to call for help'.
She recorded a verdict of accidental death.
A spokeswoman for UCLH expressed sympathy with the family and friends of Mr Curtis, and added: 'The coroner was not critical of the care provided by UCLH. Unfortunately, there was a rapid deterioration of Mr Curtis’s condition outside of hospital which could not have been predicted.'
She said: 'UCLH was the pioneer of ambulatory care in the NHS, allowing patients to stay overnight or for a number of days in a nearby ‘home from home’ instead of having days of drug treatment in hospital.
'Patients regularly praise the service and describe it as empowering not only for themselves but also for their companions.
'Patients eligible for ambulatory care can still choose to stay in hospital.
If they opt for ambulatory care, they are given clear instructions when to contact the hospital as well as a contact telephone number and a bleep number which are carried by a senior nurse 24 hours a day.'
The statement added: 'Following the death of Mr Curtis, UCLH conducted an internal investigation and is reviewing policies and procedures in relation to patients staying in hotels post-treatment.'