A COUNCILLOR who died after spending 15 months waiting for a heart operation was let down by the NHS he loved, his grieving partner said.
Newport councillor Ron Jones was suffering from severe heart disease and was waiting for surgery after doctors told him he needed a triple by-pass and a new valve.
But he died of heart failure last August, aged 78.
His partner of 30 years Pam Allen has complained to the two health boards involved, hoping no-one else will have to go through the same ordeal.
“He was let down by the NHS he loved,” she said.
Speaking to the Argus for the first time since Cllr Jones’ death, she said: “He was just let down. Why did he wait so long when they knew what was wrong with him?
“Why was he waiting 15 months from the point he was diagnosed? To me, heart surgery is an emergency.”
The Labour councillor, who represented Pill for decades, is thought to be one of the 99 patients in Wales who have died on the heart surgery waiting list within the last five years.
A consultant at the Royal Gwent Hospital told him in May 2012 he would need a double heart bypass and a new valve.
In autumn 2012, Cllr Jones was given an angiogram at the hospital, but his GP was furious when she discovered that he did not have any stents put in.
“The doctor said that would have given him quality of life until he had the operation,” said Ms Allen.
Cllr Jones had a further appointment at the University of Wales Hospital Cardiff, which provides heart surgery for South-East Wales, on October 19, 2012.
A doctor then told him he would need a triple bypass.
Ms Allen, 68, of Pill, said: “He said: ‘Do you have any questions?’ We said: ‘When do we come in? Tomorrow?’
“He said: ‘No, three to six months’.”
When Cllr Jones was told in April that the operation wouldn’t be for the foreseeable future, Ms Allen got Newport West AM Rosemary Butler involved.
They then received a letter saying Cllr Jones had been put on a 36-week waiting list – but that he had gone on the waiting list on December 17.
Cllr Jones was finally given an appointment for a pre-assessment clinic on June 5, 2013, and was told his operation would take place within six weeks. But the operation didn’t take place.
Ms Allen said on August 27, 2013, Cllr Jones woke up and went to the toilet: “He came back and said I’m dying, I need an ambulance.”
The ambulance crew arrived quickly, but Cllr Jones died before they could get him to hospital.
Ms Allen now has two complaints outstanding, against both the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the Aneurin Bevan Health Board.
She said: “If something can be done, it can save other people.”
Cllr Jones’ partner said she couldn’t bring herself to make the complaints until January.
“I see him in this house every day, it still upsets me,” she said. “I thought: right, something has got to be done. I have got to make a stand now.”
- Cardiff and Vale University Health Board offered its sincerest condolences to Cllr Jones family for their loss.
A spokeswoman said the board is arranging a meeting between Cllr Jones’ relatives and the clinical team.
She said: “We would like to reassure the family that steps are being taken by health boards and the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee to increase cardiac capacity.
“This has included further investment in the service, providing surgery at weekends and commissioning services from other providers.
“We would also like to reassure patients and their families waiting for treatment that arrangements are in place to regularly review and monitor patients on the waiting list.
“However if anyone has any concerns they should see their GP. We would also add that outcomes after cardiac surgery at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board are excellent, some of the best in the UK, and that clinical teams are constantly working to improve patient care and timely access to services.”
A spokeswoman for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board also offered the organisation’s sincerest condolences to Cllr Jones’ family.
However she said the board does not comment publicly on the detail of individual patients to ensure it maintains confidentiality.
“We can confirm that a complaint has been received and is being fully investigated,” she added.