Hospital worker advised not to shield until days before his death was at increased risk of developing Covid-19

A hospital worker who was not advised to shield until days before his death was placed at an increased risk of developing Covid-19, an inquest heard.

Kevin Smith, 64, a plaster technician at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, in South Yorkshire, was taking immunosuppressant drugs for rheumatoid arthritis when he contracted coronavirus in 2020.

His wife Diane told an inquest at Doncaster Coroner’s Court that a letter advising her husband to shield, which arrived while he was in hospital, was “too little, too late”.

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The inquest heard that father-of-two Mr Smith, who had worked at the hospital for more than 35 years, developed a cough on March 20, 2020 but it did not seem to be “particularly concerning”.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Mrs Smith said the situation “changed quite drastically” on April 3 when her husband fell ill and she was advised to take him to the accident and emergency department.

He was diagnosed with Covid-19 and Mrs Smith said she did not see her husband again after taking him some belongings later that night.

The inquest heard that Mr Smith was provided with oxygen therapy and antibiotics and his condition was stable for a period of time until he developed chest pains.

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His condition deteriorated and he died on April 12 2020.

The cause of his death was given as a heart attack due to the Covid-19 infection, with his immunosuppression from the rheumatoid arthritis a contributory factor.

Mrs Smith told the inquest that her husband received a letter after he had been admitted to hospital that advised patients taking immunosuppressant drugs to shield.

She said: “That was too little, too late.”

The inquest heard that letters were posted to patients in alphabetical order by surname between March 23 and April 6.

Senior coroner Nicola Mundy recorded a conclusion that Mr Smith died from natural causes.

She added: “Kevin Smith took immunosuppressant drugs and these drugs, together with the absence of shielding, placed him at significant increased risk of developing Covid-19 infection.

“He went on to contract Covid-19, which led to his death on April 12 2020.”

She continued: “The fact he had not received any advice to shield did place him at increased risk of developing Covid-19, which ultimately led to his death.”

Ms Mundy said she could not say where Mr Smith, who sometimes travelled to work on a shuttle bus and had received visits from family members at his home before his illness, had contracted Covid-19, and she could not say that he contracted it at his workplace.

She said: “I cannot find that the Covid-19 was contracted during the course of employment.

“I simply cannot say where it was contracted and while it is a possibility, I cannot find it was a probability.”

Paying tribute to Mr Smith after his death, Richard Parker, chief executive at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “Kev, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was renowned for his warm personality, diligence and compassion.”