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Inquest set to open into death of 27-year-old man with learning disabilities at St James’s Hospital in Leeds

Inquest date: Monday 24th April
Time: 10am
Location: The Coroner’s Court, Court 1 (First Floor), 71 Northgate, Wakefield WF1 3BS
Duration: Four days

The inquest into the death of a 27-year-old man with learning disabilities from Leeds will open next week. It is expected to examine whether his disability played any part into the level of care he received and whether medical staff failed to take a pre-existing medical condition into account.

Ryan Hughes died on 10 November, 2014, just over 24 hours after being admitted to St James’s Hospital in Leeds with breathing problems.

Ryan had severe learning disabilities and was unable to walk or talk. He lived in supported living accommodation in Bramley, Leeds. On the day he was admitted to hospital on 9 November, he was unable to vomit and as a result was choking and in pain.

As a child, Ryan suffered extensively with projectile vomiting and underwent surgery to alleviate this. As a result, he was unable to vomit and if he needed to be sick would have to have his stomach pumped by inserting a tube to release its contents.

His mother, Mrs Julie Palmer, accompanied Ryan to St James’s Hospital and repeatedly explained to hospital staff that due to previous surgery, his stomach needed to be pumped if he was trying to vomit and that this would alleviate his symptoms which included an extremely distended stomach, breathing difficulties and a lack of oxygen.

The hospital failed to carry out a stomach pump and instead diagnosed a twisted bowel. Mrs Palmer was advised that Ryan would not survive surgery and that she should prepare for his death. However, the hospital later performed exploratory surgery which revealed that Ryan’s bowel was “pink and healthy.” During all of this, Ryan became increasingly distressed and his condition deteriorated.

He died on 10 November with the majority of his bowel resting outside his abdomen as a result of being given more muscle relaxant that normal due to his hardened muscles, meaning staff could no longer get the bowel back into his body.

The inquest will examine Ryan’s care at the hospital. Witnesses include Julie Palmer and a number of hospital staff who were responsible for Ryan’s care in hospital.

Nina Ali, a medical negligence partner at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen is acting for Mrs Julie Palmer, Ryan’s mother who lives in Bramley, Leeds, says: “My client is traumatised by what happened to her son and believes that if staff had listened to her, Ryan would still be alive today. Instead, she feels that staff saw someone with learning disabilities and who, because he was unable to communicate himself, failed to engage or respond to his urgent needs. She hopes the inquest will deliver some much-needed answers.”