'Neglected' mum died after waiting more than 12 hours in A&E after returning from dream holiday

27 February 2024, 13:56

Sharon Goddard, 53, died after waiting 12 hours in A&E
Sharon Goddard, 53, died after waiting 12 hours in A&E. Picture: Family handout

By Asher McShane

A mother-of-three died after she was kept waiting in A&E for more than 12 hours after coming home from a dream holiday.

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Sharon Goddard, 53, was on her way home from celebrating 25 years of marriage to her husband Neale when she began having chest pains as the plane came in to land.

The mother, from Bristol, was rushed to hospital with a life-threatening tear in the heart’s main artery and she should have been seen within an hour.

She was kept waiting for 12 hours and died before an urgent operation could take place.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has apologised after her death. An inquest heard the trust failed to provide and procure basic medical attention in time.

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Her family believe that a decision by a paramedic led to a series of slow responses that contributed to Sharon’s death.

When a CT scan showed she needed immediate heart surgery, it took a further six hours to get her ready for the operation - after she’d already waited 10 hours to be diagnosed.

during the process of putting her under anaesthetic, Sharon suffered a cardiac arrest which stopped the doctors from carrying out the operation intended to save her life. The coroner's report read: "I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities that Mrs Goddard's death was avoidable."

Sharon's oldest daughter, Hannah Goddard, shared: "Mum had a smile that could light up any room. She proudly and passionately worked for the NHS for over 30 years and loved her job as a senior medical secretary at BUPA, Southmead and Bristol Children's Hospital.

"Knowing that she lost her life due to the failure of the NHS and medical staff responsible for her care is unbelievably heartbreaking. Mum had a rare condition called Loeys-Dietz Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects connective tissue.

"There are many symptoms, but the ones that carry the highest risk are related to the cardiovascular system. LDS can cause enlargement of the aorta which can lead to aortic aneurysm or dissection.

"Aortic dissection (AD) occurs when there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta causing the layers to split. AD is a life-threatening condition which, if not diagnosed via a CT scan and treated promptly, can be fatal.

"We want to stress the importance of educating people, particularly in the medical field, about Loeys-Dietz Syndrome and aortic dissection, so that a repeat can be avoided in the future.

"There are many tests available to aid diagnosis of LDS and you can be referred for genetic testing and counselling from your GP." 

Jackie Linehan, medical negligence and inquest solicitor at Bristol-based legal firm Enable Law, which is representing the family, said: “Sharon’s loss was a complete tragedy.There were multiple missed opportunities.

"If her condition had been recognised and addressed on time, things very likely would have been different and she would be here with us. Systemic delays played an equal part to lack of recognition of her condition.”

A Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust spokesperson said: "We are profoundly sorry and offer our deepest sympathies to Sharon Goddard's family during this difficult time."

"Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, delivering high-quality care to our patients is our priority and we accept the coroner's findings."

"We have taken a number of actions since this incident took place and continue to work with our teams, to learn, improve our services and support the needs of our patients and their families."