Bradwell war hero inquest highlights hospital shortcomings

The daughter of a Norfolk war veteran says it is disgusting that he spent his last days in a hospital bed after a painkiller administered for backache led to kidney failure.

Father-of-four George Cox survived the London blitz and the horrors of the Allies’ 1944 “bridge too far” Arnhem mission – a part of his second world war service he commemorated proudly for many years afterwards.

An inquest into the death five years ago of 82-year-old Mr Cox, of Hickory Gardens, Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, highlighted shortcomings on the part of the Princess Alexandra Hospital at Harlow, Essex; these included failing to take account of his medical history and not monitoring him properly.

Now, his daughter, Denise Arpels, of Aldercarr Hall near Attleborough, has urged the hospital to make a promised review into procedures to ensure lessons are learned. She said: “He survived the blitz in London as a teenager, he was a veteran of Arnhem, went on to survive the second world war and then died like this. We cannot believe that a man fit for his age went into a hospital with a backache and came out in a body bag.”

Great-grandfather Mr Cox was admitted to the hospital while staying with his son Vaughan at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, in November 2006. He was due to take part in the Remem-brance Day parade at the Cenotaph but suffered sudden acute back pain.

The inquest, held at Chelmsford on Friday, was told he was given 150mgs of the drug dicolfenac and then reduced amounts over the next three days; but he suffered kidney failure and died 16 days later.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a narrative verdict, adding: “He was admitted suffering back pain and given a Voltarol-type drug; there was a failure to take into account his age, previous history and he was not monitored properly and he died from complications of the drug.”

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Mr Cox, despite being described as “reasonably fit”, did have a history of bladder cancer and some heart disease, the inquest heard.

Prof Robert Forrest said it was a one-in-10,000 chance of receiving kidney failure from the treatment but his age and medical background would have played a part; he added that the kidney disease was “subtle and wasn’t recognised”.

Sandra Dimmock, medical director at the Princess Alexandra, told the inquest she would hold an inquiry to find out whether anything else could have been done.

Mrs Arpels, 59, who runs a beauty spa and college from her home, said the case highlighted the need to improve the quality of care for the elderly in hospitals. She thought more attention should have been paid to the side-effects suffered by her father as a result of his treatment.

“Dad’s case to me is bad – it’s digusting all the way through – but I’m hoping that by jumping up and down enough things will change. I don’t think elderly people are listened to,” she said. “The whole family was traumatised, I think it’s fair to say. It was devastating to lose Dad.”

Mr Cox was born in London in June 1924. During the blitz, he would take his prized accordion into air-raid shelters to raise people’s spirits. Later, as a member of Air Dispatch attached to the Parachute Regiment, he took part in the Arnhem mission in Holland in September 1944 before ending the war serving in Burma.

In the 1950s, Mr Cox resumed his musical career playing as a jazz pianist alongside the likes of Jack Parnell. He moved to Bradwell after retiring at 74 and is buried at Arnhem war cemetery.