A FATHER with a degenerative condition choked to death after ‘grabbing’ food from another patient’s plate, an inquest heard.
While in the care of staff at St Magnus Hospital, in Haslemere, Harold Longley, 67, who had dementia and problems swallowing, choked on bread.
Mr Longley was on a strict diet of soft food and was closely monitored at meal times.
But he took food from a fellow patient’s plate while one of the carers on duty, Damian Guzy, was preparing food for another patient.
Jim Broderick, general manager of the hospital, told the inquest at Chichester Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday: “At the time it was considered safe for Harold to be in the dining room at the same time as the other patients. He was mobile, and sat down with patients who are on different diets. We want them to live as normally as possible. They are all observed, but anyone can choke at any time.
“He was encouraged to use a tea spoon at meal times.”
Michelle Harris, who visited her father at the hospital once a month, said she ‘noticed problems’ with her father’s care. “He didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” she told the inquest. “It was just his brain that was damaged, not his body. He was still very healthy.”
Mr Longley, who often displayed ‘restless and agitated behaviour’ had snatched other patients’ food on a number of occasions since he was admitted to the hospital in 2009.
Damien Guzy, who was caring for the patients in the dining hall, told the inquest he had turned away ‘only for a minute’ and called for support immediately when he saw Mr Longley had ‘changed colour’.
“Help came very fast,” Mr Guzy said.
Mr Longley had displayed ‘bizarre’ behaviour, such as tearing up newspapers and clapping his hands loudly, but enjoyed talking about his family.
Elias Chenge, mental health nurse at the hospital told the court: “Mr Longley’s cognitive deterioration was having a marked effect on his behaviour. Some patients suffering with dementia do have a tendency to grab food.”
Mr Chenge also said problems with swallowing was common in those with dementia.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, deputy coroner Martin Milward described the incident as ‘tragic’, but said ‘appropriate action’ had been taken by staff.