A SENIOR consultant has admitted that a lack of funding means there is a gap in the care and treatment received by geriatric patients at a North East Wales hospital.

Ian Smith told an inquest that over two years since he last highlighted the problem at a similar hearing, nothing had changed despite assurances that improvements were being made.

And in a frank statement Mr Smith also revealed that the Denbighshire hospital’s new managing director, Rab McEwan, was unaware that the hospital was ranked bottom out of 176 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in its provision of some pre and post-operative services.

He was giving evidence at an inquest in Ruthin into the death of 77-year-old Megan Lloyd Williams, who died at Glan Clwyd Hospital at Bodelwyddan on September 9 last year.

She was admitted on August 23 after breaking her hip in a fall at her home in St Peter’s Park, Northop. She underwent surgery, which was successful, but within days she complained of severe stomach pains.

A scan carried out on September 2 revealed a perforated duodenum and when Mrs Williams died following further urgent surgery the cause of death was given as peritonitis due to the perforation.

At the inquest her husband Roy said the family’s concern was that the perforated duodenum should have been identified sooner but his wife was not seen by any medic other than an orthopaedic doctor for nine days.

John Gittins, coroner for North Wales (East and Central), said that after learning of their concerns he had raised the issue with the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and in response gastro-enterology consultant Dr Richard Morgan said there was evidence of a failure as Mrs Williams was seen within hours of complaining of abdominal pain.

But Mr Smith told the inquest that he and his colleagues had long felt there should be an “intermediate level of care” for such geriatric patients.

Mr Gittins asked: “So, if somebody had seen this lady in the meantime before September 2 there is every possibility that the issues raised by the family may have been spotted?”

Mr Smith replied: “Yes”.

The coroner said he had expressed similar concerns at an inquest in August 2016 and had been assured that steps were being taken, but Mr Smith explained that of the two physicians appointed at that time one had left quite soon afterwards and the other had been on long-term sickness leave, so in reality nothing had changed.

A business plan has now been approved and an appointment is expected to be made.

Mr Gittins read an email he had received from Mr McEwan in which he admitted that the ortho-geriatric service was “not as it should be”.

“We are just not providing the service at the moment,” he wrote.

Mr Williams said he and his family felt there had been a failure in the duty of care after surgery and thanked Mr Smith for his candour.

Mr Smith replied: “Things have to be said.

"We have exhausted all the avenues inside the Trust and have to go outside to get some action.”

Mr Gittins recorded a conclusion of accidental death on Mrs Williams but said he was very concerned about the lack of action following the assurances he had been given in 2016.

He has called a resumed hearing later this month for an update on the situation before deciding whether to issue a Regulation 28 report to prevent future deaths.

He thanked Mr Smith for “putting his head above the parapet”.