Dying grandfather’s lungs washed out with cleaning fluid

Salford Royal Hospital releases results of its investigation into mix-up

Salford Royal Hospital
(Image credit: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

A Bolton man died three days after hospital staff mistakenly used a cleaning detergent to wash out his lungs.

William Hannah, 68, was admitted to Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester, with a traumatic brain injury and fractures following a serious car accident in September last year, The Daily Telegraph reports.

His condition deteriorated over the following day, and he was placed on a ventilator and moved to intensive care, where he subsequently developed a lung infection, according to the hospital’s internal report into the incident.

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As his health worsened, doctors decided to perform a bronchial lavage, a procedure which involves rinsing the airways with a small amount of saline solution in order to collect a fluid sample for analysis.

A member of the nursing staff was instructed to collect a bottle of saline from a trolley which had been brought in for the procedure.

However, a bottle labelled saline actually contained a cleaning agent called lancer solution rather than its original contents, which had run out 18 days earlier. The solution, commonly used to sterilise medical instruments, was then pumped into Hannah’s lungs.

“Upon discovering the mistake, the doctor began another wash-out of the right lung to attempt to remove as much detergent as possible,” The Bolton News reports.

Hannah’s condition continued to decline and he died a day later; although “it is not yet known if the botched procedure played a part in his death”, says the Manchester Evening News. Further tests are now underway to establish whether the mistake was a factor in his death.

A coroner’s report is also being prepared ahead of the planned inquest into the death in February.

Dr Pete Turkington, Medical Director of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust offered the trust’s “deepest sympathies” to Hannah’s family and acknowledged that their report showed he “did not receive the high standard of care we always pride ourselves on delivering”.

“We apologise unreservedly to his family for this,” he said. “We have since introduced new measures to ensure something like this will not happen again.”

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