Man who died from heart attack sent home twice after medics said he had chest infection

Brian Calam, 74, was initially diagnosed with a chest infection and constipation and sent home. On his third visit to hospital, he was diagnosed with a heart attack and later died

Brian Calam |
Brian Calam died from a heart attack

A patient who died from a heart attack was sent home from a hospital twice after doctors gave him a wrong diagnosis, a report has revealed.

Brian Calam, 74, was only diagnosed with a heart attack on his third visit to York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals, where he passed away on November 11 last year.

He had previously been discharged after medics diagnosed him with a chest infection and constipation.

A new report said the “changing external environment” during the Covid-19 pandemic and “high stress” felt by hospital staff were contributing factors in the errors made by medical staff.

It also suggested the use of PPE equipment added a “significant challenge to working practices and relationships” while Brian was being treated.

Speaking after the report was published, a spokesperson for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said it “truly regrets” the failings in their care.

The patient was discharged from York and Scarborough Teaching Hospital twice after he was given the wrong diagnosis


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They said: “Incidents of this nature are taken extremely seriously and are fully investigated.

“The subsequent learning and recommendations have been incorporated into the Trust’s patient safety processes, with the aim of preventing a similar incident happening again.”

The report revealed that Brian, a former rugby player and carriage driver from York, went to the emergency department three times in three days in early November 2020.

He had a chest x-ray on his first visit, which should have trigged an ECG, a test used to check the rhythm and activity of the heart – but this did not happen and Brian was sent home.

The report showed that on his second visit, an ECG test was carried out but doctors failed to review the results correctly, so he was sent home once again.

The patient had a chest x-ray in hospital (Stock photo)


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During Brian’s final visit, three days after his original heart attack, his condition worsened and he was rushed into the intensive care unit.

The report said: “The patient was admitted on the third occasion due to worsening respiratory symptoms.

“Soon after admission, his condition suddenly deteriorated, and heart failure was diagnosed.

“Despite significant rescue efforts and intensive care, the patient died.

“It is not possible to say with certainty whether earlier diagnosis would have changed the outcome.”

The report added that it was possible that Brian’s chest pain manifested itself as abdominal pain during the second attendance.

A new report found that the stress felt by hospital staff was a contributing factor in the errors made (Stock photo)



It also said that the absence of cardiac symptoms and the prevalence of Covid infections at the time supported a likely diagnosis of a chest infection.

The report also made a number of references to the impact of the Covid pandemic on the hospital department treating Brian and its decision-making process.

It said: “A rapidly changing external environment led to frequent operational changes.

“Service reconfigurations introduce new risks, particularly when undertaken at pace as was required in response to the Covid pandemic.

“Use of PPE (personal protective equipment) adds a significant challenge to working practices and relationships.”

The report also referred to the workload staff were experiencing at the time, saying they treated between 162 and 250 patients each day during the week around November 8, 2020.

It said: “The workload is high and contributes to the stress felt by staff.”

Now, a relative of the man said she is “angry” with the care he received and that she has lost “trust” with doctors at the hospital.

The woman, who does not want to be named, said: “The report was damning enough but it did spare them some embarrassment.

“Brian was sent home off the results of someone else’s chest X-ray, someone with a chest infection!

“I have been angry about it all but am now calming down. Hospital trust – trust I do not!”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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