Woman died after being rushed to surgery she didn’t need

Kathleen Ritchie had surgery at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.Kathleen Ritchie had surgery at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Kathleen Ritchie had surgery at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. | JPIMedia
The family of a woman who died after a kidney op were heartbroken to learn it should never have gone ahead.

Kathleen Ritchie, 79, had surgery to remove her right kidney at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, but died within weeks of the operation three years ago.

Her daughter Karen Millar was left stunned after the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) found the surgery had put her at "exceptionally high risk" of complications.

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This was due to her age and medical history, including angina and a heart attack in 2016.

Mrs Ritchie, from St Andrews, was weeks away from celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary when she died on September 29, 2017 - six weeks after the operation.

The mother-of-five had been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma following the discovery of a small lesion on her kidney during a routine heart scan.

Mrs Millar said: "Mum and Dad came home from that appointment shocked.

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"The doctors had really stressed the urgency of doing this operation within four weeks as if it was a life or death thing, that there was no other option."

But an investigation by the SPSO found that her case was actually low risk and should instead have been monitored with regular scanning.

The watchdog blasted NHS Tayside over "serious failings" in the grandmother's care and concluded that the operation had triggered "a cascade of complications" which could have been avoided.

Her daughter said the findings had come "out of the blue" because the family had still believed that the operation was necessary

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.Mrs Millar complained to the SPSO after finding errors in NHS Tayside's internal probe and feeling that it "made light of" mistakes leading up to her mother's death, including leaving her to develop bed sores and fall into a diabetic coma from lack of food.

In addition, the family feared the cause of internal bleeding following the surgery was being covered up by the hospital after Mrs Ritchie's GP made enquiries on their behalf and said she was told the problems "stemmed from a nick in her artery during the original operation".

No record of that has been found by the SPSO, but Mrs Millar said the family first became suspicious when the operation took twice as long as expected and a junior doctor mentioned that "something had happened", without giving them details.

Mrs Millar said: "One of the Ombudsman experts said it could have been a nick to her diaphragm that caused the internal bleeding, but we don't know.

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"There's no record of a nick to her artery, but that's what her GP was told.

"In some ways, it's left us with more questions than answers."

Mr Millar said she hopes lessons will be learned from her mother's death, adding: "She was just a nice, happy lady, with lots of friends.

"Kind, well known in the community.

"We have a big family, but I just think what would happen if it was someone with no one to look out for them?"

NHS Tayside said it has accepted all the SPSO's recommendations and is "sincerely sorry" for the failings in Mrs Ritchie's care