A FRAIL man unable to eat solid foods died from aspiration pneumonia after hospital staff wrongly fed him meals on the ward, an inquest heard.

A post mortem discovered a large amount of food in the throat and lungs of Edward Maitland, which led to the infection and ultimately his death.

The 74-year-old died at Wycombe Hospital on January 8 last year - more than three weeks after suffering a cardiac arrest on Ward 6B.

The inquest heard how Mr Maitland, of Hazlemere, had to be resuscitated after eating Weetabix on the ward on December 16, 2011.

He may have also been served solid foods over the three days prior to the crisis due to a breakdown in communication, hospital staff told Wednesday’s inquest held in Beaconsfield.

Mr Maitland had lived on a diet of milkshake-style foods since 1996, when part of his tongue was removed after he developed oral cancer.

Gary Maitland said he explicitly told medics that his father was on a liquid diet when he was admitted to the hospital’s emergency centre with dehydration, confusion and shortness of breath on December 11, 2011.

He even took supplies of his father’s supplements into the hospital to ensure he was fed the correct version of the prescribed liquid food, Fortisips.

Gary Maitland, a paramedic, said: "They were told about his tongue and that he couldn’t swallow solid food. That was explained to them."

Ward 6B nurse Corinne Bailey said she had not been made aware of Mr Maitland’s dietary needs during a verbal handover on his admittance to the ward, only that he had been taking oral medication - calling it a "shortfall in communication" between departments.

Following Mr Maitland’s death, the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust brought in a raft of new measures to ensure important notes are passed between departments.

Assistant chief nurse Rachel Corser said a new form had been introduced to log key information and recommendations for when patients were being moved between departments and during nurse handovers.

Nurses have all received nutrition training and meetings of ward managers are held every week, she told the inquest.

Recording a narrative verdict, the Buckinghamshire Coroner Richard Hulett said: "It was documented Mr Maitland had been unable to eat solids since 1996 and lived off Fortisips and other liquids.

"He was admitted [from the EMC] to Ward 6B on December 12, 2011, but due to a failure of communication, ward staff were not aware of this dietary restriction through December 13-15 and at breakfast on December 16.

"He had solid food made available to him and some of this was consumed. Food material entered the small airways of both lungs leading to the development of aspiration pneumonia."

In a statement, Lynne Swiatczak, Chief Nurse and Director of Patient Care Standards said: “We would like to send our sincere condolences and apologies to Mr Maitland’s family at this difficult time.

“Following a thorough investigation, we have developed a number of procedures to improve staff communication when patients move between wards.

“We have introduced clear alerts in all patient notes which prompts nurses to important information about the patient during handover.

“This is monitored and audited on a monthly basis. We have also increased nutritional training to nurses on our wards.”