Bognor Regis grandfather died after taking prescribed medication - 'We've all been left heartbroken'

"When dad was unwell in hospital he said he wanted people to know what had happened to him — he didn't want another family to go through what we had been through."

Friday, 30th April 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 9:10 pm

A heartbroken family has paid tribute to a 'kind and caring' Bognor Regis grandfather, who died from liver failure, caused by a prescribed antibiotic.

Retired refuse collector Barry Butcher, 69, of Frensham Avenue, Bognor Regis, died at St Richard's Hospital on August 28 last year.

An inquest at Edes' House in Chichester on Thursday (April 29) heard that the great-grandfather of seven was prescribed Flucloxacillin for an infected cut to his foot, sustained after a fall at home in March. He was told to take 500mg of the antibiotic, four times a day, for ten days.

Barry, who had four children, 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren — two of which were born after his death —was remembered as a 'good man, with a big heart'.

Although the medication successfully treated the infection, Mr Butcher suffered a drug induced liver injury from taking this medication. Despite treatment, his condition worsened and he died.

Giving evidence during the inquest, Mr Butcher's GP Elizabeth York said Flucloxacillin is a commonly prescribed drug but 'can be associated with liver damage'.

However, she said that she had 'absolutely not' seen anyone else react to the drug as badly as Mr Butcher.

Denying claims that she opted for the 'cheaper drug', Ms York added that the alternative medication also posed health risks.

"It's absolutely not a cheaper drug," she said. "It's very established. It's considered to be safe on the whole, although we cannot say all drugs are safe. It's never come down to cost."

Ms York admitted that she had never seen Mr Butcher in person because of Covid-19 restrictions limiting footfall to the The Croft Practice in Barnham.

She added: "In a normal time, without the pandemic, we would be able to see patients much more easily. We are still trying to keep footfall down at the surgery.

"The call came in late on a Friday afternoon and I wanted to sort it promptly before the weekend.

"It still wouldn't have changed the management. I still would have prescribed the antibiotics.

"I want to say how very sorry I am to the family that it happened. I am exceptionally upset about what happened and we all are in the practice.

"It couldn't have been known that this would happen."

The inquest heard that Mr Butcher was scheduled to have a liver transplant after being transferred to King's College Hospital in London.

However, he was eventually ruled out as a candidate for the operation due to his deteriorating health. The inquest heard that there was a 'high likelihood of a poor outcome'.

Concerns were also raised at the inquest about the 'lack of communication' between staff.

The family of Mr Butcher, who had been transferred back to St Richard's Hospital, claimed they were left in the dark about the decision to stop the dialysis.

They added that they felt the hospital 'could have done more and moved faster', adding: "They assumed he would recover and kept saying it would take time."

Penelope Schofield, coroner for West Sussex, returned a conclusion of drug-related death caused by an adverse reaction to a prescription drug.

The coroner said she will hold discussions with the hospitals and write a report about the lack of communication around Mr Butcher's treatment.

'We still have many unanswered questions'

Mr Butcher, who had four children, 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren — two of which were born after his death —was remembered as a 'good man, with a big heart'.

In a statement, read out by the coroner's officer, Mr Butcher's wife of 44 years, Shelagh, wrote: "He was a family man. He had a big heart and sense of humour.

"He enjoyed DIY and gardening. He was independent and very friendly. He would chat to people he didn't know and loved get togethers.

"He was always a hard worker and was enjoying retirement with his family but never got to live at his chosen home."

Speaking to the Observer, his daughter, Marie, said: "When dad was unwell in hospital he said he wanted people to know what had happened to him — he didn't want another family to go through what we had been through.

"Knowing the medication will be named on his death certificate is important to us.

"Many people take the antibiotic Flucloxacillin when it is prescribed, without giving it a second thought, just like dad did.

"Unfortunately we still have many unanswered questions. We only hope that the meetings being offered with the hospitals will help to get the answers we really need.

"Dad had a big family, who loved him, we will cherish our many memories of him.

"We've all been left heartbroken."