Heart attack dad’s death ‘an avoidable tragedy’

Andrew Nicol who died while on holiday in Tenerife.

Andrew Nicol who died while on holiday in Tenerife. - Credit: Archant

A FATHER-of-three from Clevedon died of a heart attack while on holiday with his family in Tenerife.

Andrew Nicol, aged 38, was found face down in the hotel’s swimming pool on October 18, 2010 and despite rescue attempts was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Nicol’s family believe he would still be alive if he had been fitted with a life-saving implant after he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a thickening of the heart which can cause sudden death.

At an inquest at Flax Bourton Coroner’s Court on Thursday, the court heard how Mr Nicol was being treated by cardiologists in Bristol after his diagnosis in 2006.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Andrew Skyrme-Jones said Mr Nicol had not yet been fitted with an implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) due to his young age and because he did not satisfy all the criteria.

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ICDs prevent death by giving the heart an electric shock when it senses an abnormal heart rate.

The court heard how Mr Nicol collapsed in May 2010 after a fainting episode and, due to an administration error, failed to see his consultant for further tests in July.

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Dr Stephen Brecker, consultant cardiologist at St George’s Hospital in London, who was asked to compile an independent report on the case, told the court five risk factors are used to asses whether a patient needs an ICD.

He said although Mr Nicol did not have a family history of sudden cardiac death, he had abnormal blood pressure while exercising and episodes of an unstable heart rate. He said the two other risk factors - his enlarged heart and a fainting episode in May - would also have set alarm bells ringing.

Dr Brecker said: “My personal view is more cardiologists than not would have said put an ICD in. But there would be a responsible body who would not.

“I think if this patient had been sent to a hypertrophy cardiomyopathy specialist he would have had further tests and after that process an ICD would have been advised.”

He added that cases where patients did not satisfy all the NHS guidelines, such as Mr Nicol’s, were complex and required clinical judgement

Coroner Maria Voisin recorded a narrative verdict. She said: “On the balance of probability his (Mr Nicol’s) death was associated with his known medical condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

“In or around July 2010 Mr Nicol should have seen a consultant for an outpatient appointment but due to an administrative error this appointment did not take place. This resulted in a lost opportunity to review medical care and treatment.”

Speaking on behalf of the family after the inquest, Dr John White, from Blake Lapthorn, said: “The family remains deeply concerned about the quality of the care he received in the months leading up to his collapse in the pool.

“If Andrew’s condition had been managed with an implantable defibrillator by those responsible for his medical treatment in the UK he would most likely still be with us today. We are keen to ensure any lessons of this avoidable tragedy can be learned so other families don’t have to experience such a loss.”

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