Four similar deaths on Northampton hospital ward, inquest hears

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A mental health ward at a Northampton hospital had four deaths related to antipsychotic medication in under seven months, an inquest has heard.

Bill Johnson, aged 41, was the fourth St Andrew’s Hospital patient to die on Grafton Ward while on antipsychotic medication, with his parents’ solicitor alleging yesterday that all four deaths were linked.

However, giving evidence in The Court Room, at County Hall, Dr Adewale Aromolaran, who was a senior doctor on the team looking after Mr Johnson, said he was never involved in any discussions about the three previous deaths, despite Mr Johnson’s similar prescription.

He said he was aware of the second and third deaths but not the first, which was before he joined the Grafton Ward team, and parallels were not noted.

He said: “There were no discussions. No talks at all about those deaths that I was involved in.”

The inquest heard Mr Johnson probably died from a cardiac arrest, following severe constipation that led to him vomiting large amounts of body salts.

It is alleged by his family that clozapine, one of the antipsychotic drugs he was taking, led to his death as constipation is one of the side effects.

St Andrew’s Healthcare said Mr Johnson was taking a laxative to counter the side-effects which, unknown to doctors, was not working properly.

The doctor said he had also tried to examine Mr Johnson’s abdomen during a routine health check, which may have highlighted the problem, but the patient would not let him proceed.

Asked what the hospital’s strategy was in such cases, the doctor said he was not aware of one, but he had been satisfied that Mr Johnson’s diet and levels of exercise should have been preventing constipation.

Mr Johnson, who had schizophrenia and learning difficulties, died on May 31 2011 and the current inquest is the second into his death.

The deaths of the other patients happened on October 23, 2010, March 31 2011 and April 3 2011.

Assistant coroner Tom Osbourne said: “I think it is likely and necessary for these other three deaths to be investigated. It is a matter for the coroner whether they should be subject to individual inquests.”

The inquest is scheduled to finish later this week.