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Husband’s heartbreak at wife's death after private hospital cancelled her minor cosmetic surgery because staff mistook effects of anxiety medication for drunkenness

A bereaved pensioner from Bishop's Stortford has been in a state of disbelief since his wife died after suffering respiratory arrest at a private hospital where he had dropped her off for minor cosmetic surgery that never took place.

Brian Andrews drove his 76-year-old wife Paula Andrews – formerly Speirs – to her early-morning check-in at Weymouth Street Hospital in London's Marylebone last August.

He said a fond farewell, expecting to pick her up after the routine procedure. Instead, she was rushed to University College Hospital (UCH) for emergency treatment, having lost consciousness.

Paula had been feeling anxious about the procedure and took some medication at home to calm her anxiety. Staff at Weymouth Street mistook the effects of the medication for alcohol intoxication. They cancelled the surgery and moved her to a private room to lie down and recover.

Later that morning, staff realised something was seriously wrong. Paula was transferred to UCH and died three days later.

The couple, who had both been married before and had nine grandchildren between them, made a new home together in Chantry Road in Stortford in 2011.

Brian and Paula Andrews, who had both been married before, made a new home together in Bishop's Stortford in 2011
Brian and Paula Andrews, who had both been married before, made a new home together in Bishop's Stortford in 2011

Around the time of their marriage in January 2013, they moved to the north-western fringe of Stortford. The well-travelled couple often spent their winters in the warmer climes of Florida and planned to buy a home there; Brian hopes to do so still in Paula's memory.

They were having a villa built in northern Cyprus, but Paula, who particularly enjoyed walking and cooking, did not live to see it completed.

Brian said: “Paula was beautiful and always took care of her looks. She was headstrong and wanted some routine cosmetic procedure, having had a few bits done here and there in the past. I always dropped her off at the hospital and waited to take her home afterwards.

"Paula was very kind, loving and everybody's favourite person. She was always there to help everyone and she was very, very generous. We're all in disbelief that this has happened.”

Brian Andrews: “Paula was beautiful and always took care of her looks."
Brian Andrews: “Paula was beautiful and always took care of her looks."

An inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in London on February 25 was told that the primary contributing factors in Paula’s death were hypoxic brain injury, respiratory arrest and benzodiazepine toxicity.

Mary Hassell, senior coroner for inner north London, determined that she died as a result of taking benzodiazepines which had not been prescribed for her.

But the coroner concluded that Paula’s tragic death on August 28 last year might have been averted.

She said: “The nurses [at Weymouth Street] looking after Paula were not given any instructions on how to avoid positional asphyxia, nor were they advised of the frequency with which they should attend her.

“It is not possible now to determine whether positional asphyxia was causative in the respiratory arrest at 11.40am on August 25 that led to Ms Speirs’ death in an NHS hospital three days later.”

A week after the inquest, the coroner took the rare step of issuing a ‘Regulation 28 Prevention of Future Deaths Report’, requiring Weymouth Street Hospital owner Phoenix Hospital Group to take action to prevent similar deaths in future.

Katheryn Riggs, a solicitor with Bishop's Stortford-based Tees Law, acting on behalf of Mr Andrews, said: “We share [the coroner's] concerns as to the care provided to Paula and the wider risks to other patients in the future.

“We look forward to hearing from the cosmetic surgery clinic with reassurance as to what steps and learning they have ensured are in place so that such a tragic incident does not happen again.”

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