Father died amid confusion at hospital over his transfer for specialist care

Hospital doctors mistakenly ordered the transfer of a father suffering from a rare throat condition leading to his death, an inquest was told.

Lorry driver Tony Cartwright, 39, was admitted to hospital in Harrogate after developing severe breathing difficulties due to epiglottitis.

Doctors decided to transfer him to hospital in York for specialist help but his condition deteriorated before an ambulance even left the hospital and he stopped breathing. He suffered catastrophic brain damage and died a month later on July 30, 2008.

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A police inquiry was launched into his treatment, investigating three doctors for manslaughter by gross negligence and the hospital for corporate manslaughter but prosecutors decided against pursuing the cases.

The hospital admitted breach in duty of care in the attempt to transfer him and his family, of Terrington, near York, were awarded damages.

A two-day inquest in Northallerton, where Coroner Michael Oakley recorded a narrative verdict, was told there was a misunderstanding that experts in ear, nose and throat complaints did not attend the hospital out of hours, leading to the decision to transfer him to York.

Medical negligence lawyer Rachelle Mahapatra said his death had had a “devastating impact” on his family.

“There was a failure to recognise the dangers of epiglottitis and the fragility of his airway,” she said. “Just by moving him rather than keeping him upright and calm, he was at risk.”

A leading expert who gave evidence at the hearing said it would have been better for him to be kept in A&E at Harrogate for a specialist to arrive.

David Scullion, medical director at Harrogate’s hospital, said it accepted the inquest’s findings and apologised to his family.

“I can assure them that lessons have been learned from this case,” he said.