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Inquest into Death of Cornwall Farmer to Examine Actions of GP and the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust

Venue: Plymouth Coroner’s Court, 1 Derriford Park, Derriford Business Park, Derriford, Plymouth
Date: 16 September, 10 am

A one-day inquest will be held this Wednesday, examining the circumstances surrounding the death of Robert Donson, a 71-year-old cattle farmer from Foxhole in Cornwall.

Mr Donson died on 30th September 2014 at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth after an untreated abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) ruptured causing multiple organ failure.

The inquest will examine the treatment Mr Donson received from the NHS, including his GP and the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust. In particular, the Coroner will look into why Mr Donson’s aneurysm went unchecked and untreated despite an ultrasound scan in 2009 that showed a potentially dangerous level of swelling.

Mr Donson went for a scan at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in 2009 after complaining of abdominal pain and feeling generally unwell. The scan showed he had an AAA and a letter was sent to his GP for this to be followed up. The GP failed to take action to schedule further scans and the Royal Cornwall Hospital did not take steps to follow up. Mr Donson continued to be treated by both his GP and the hospital’s consultant over the following years but his health problems were put down to other issues whilst the AAA went uninvestigated.

When Mr Donson became seriously unwell and collapsed in September 2014, hospital medical staff initially diagnosed gallstones. Only later after he was seen by doctors at both St Austell and Treliske Hospital, was he diagnosed with AAA. He was transferred to Derriford Hospital and on arrival efforts were made to operate but doctors were unable to save him.

Mr Donson’s son David will attend the inquest where he and his family hope to establish the full circumstances surrounding his father’s death. He says: “We have lost a father and grandfather whose death leaves a gap in all our lives. My father was well known in the local farming community and his farm is now a quieter place without him – the world has lost one of life’s great characters.

“I hope that the inquest this week will give me and my family a better understanding of the treatment my father received in the years and days before his death. It was only during preparation for the inquest that we discovered my father had undergone the scan in 2009 and we are shocked that this showed an AAA and we remain shocked that this was not followed up and went untreated for years.”
Rachel Heelis, medical negligence lawyer at Hodge Jones & Allen in the South West is representing the family. She says: “We hope that the Coroner’s investigation will review all the events leading up to Mr Donson’s death. Mr Donson was seen by a number of health professionals over the years and on the days before his death was transferred between three separate hospitals. We hope the actions of all those involved in his care will be scrutinised so that lessons can be learnt and acted upon.”

All press enquiries to:

Louise Eckersley, Black Letter Communications on 020 3567 1208 or 07766 573844, email:

Kerry Jack, Black Letter Communications on 020 3567 1208 or 07525 756 599, email:
Notes to editors:

Hodge Jones & Allen was founded in 1977 in Camden and has 200 staff based in Euston NW1. The firm practices personal injury, clinical negligence, civil liberties, family law, wills and probate, housing, dispute resolution, criminal defence and serious fraud.

Hodge Jones & Allen has a base in the South West serving clients in Devon and Cornwall which was established in 2013