Norwich man died of Covid following hospital appointments
- Credit: Jo Goodman
One of the first people to die with Covid in Norfolk had attended two hospital appointments in person in the days leading up to his death, an inquest heard.
Stuart Goodman, 72, died at the start of the pandemic in 2020, 15 days after visiting the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) for a cancer diagnosis appointment on March 18.
An inquest into his death on Tuesday heard Mr Goodman and his wife, Annie Henriques, had already begun shielding at their home in Norwich at the time despite there not yet being official guidance to do so.
On March 24 the former Fleet Street press photographer attended another appointment to start chemotherapy.
Subsequently he developed Covid symptoms and was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated. He died on April 2, just 10 days after England was plunged into its first lockdown.
His wife, a music therapist, told the inquest his underlying health conditions had led to family concerns about him attending hospital in person.
Mr Goodman had undergone a quadruple heart bypass in 2019 and was also waiting for the fitting of a pacemaker.
In a statement his wife said: “Although the family were concerned about him attending the hospital and questioned whether the appointment could be conducted by phone, Stuart did not question his invitation as he had faith the NHS would protect him.”
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She said they had been surprised at the hospital to see that “there were no social distancing measures in place in the crowded waiting room, nor were staff provided with PPE”.
But she said hospital staff had been “sensitive and compassionate” and she and their children, Adam and Jo, had been able to spend time with Mr Goodman in his final days.
“I’m not sure that Stuart knew he had Covid because his communication was very limited but his eyes told you everything,” she added.
“He was very scared and I think he knew he was dying. His only comfort was that we were there with him.”
'We endeavoured to do our best'
Hamish Lyall, NNUH consultant haematologist, told the inquest: “It is probably not going to be possible to know where and when Mr Goodman became infected with coronavirus.”
He said despite his death coming before full PPE measures, standard protection measures were undertaken at the cancer centre.
“We have endeavoured to do our best for our patients during the pandemic and have continued to treat our cancer patients throughout in the knowledge that without treatment some of those patients will inevitably die,” he said.
Giving a narrative verdict that Mr Goodman died from natural causes, area coroner Yvonne Blake said: “It is not for me to say whether the systems that were in place at the time were sufficient based on the knowledge that people had at the time.
“It does seem that the cancer unit took extra precautions normally anyway because of the type of patients that they received such as cleaning down furniture and wearing aprons, gloves and face masks for close contact.”
Archetype of a vulnerable person
Following her father's death, Jo Goodman, 32, co-founded the group Covid-19: Bereaved Families for Justice.
They have been campaigning for lessons to be learnt and have been partly responsible for securing a public enquiry.
She told the inquest: “We absolutely don’t blame the hospital, that's not what we are looking for, but what we do think is really important is the principle of vulnerable people being protected is one that is held sacred.
“My dad was the archetype of a vulnerable person. If you read his health conditions he can easily be interpreted as someone who might not have made it through chemo, which is true, but he was also someone with a lot to live for.
“He was about to publish his first book and we are launching it in his absence two years later in a few weeks time.”