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Father with cancer dies weeks after he was beaten ‘black and blue’

An elderly man died weeks after being ‘beaten black and blue’ by the only other patient on his hospital ward.

Alfred Sanderson, 86, was left frightened and in pain after the unprovoked assault by a man with apparent mental health problems, which relatives fear hastened his death from cancer seven weeks later.

His family are furious that a frail and sick old man was attacked in the sanctuary of his hospital bed and have criticised the authorities for the way they dealt with it. 

Alfred Sanderson, 86, (pictured) was left frightened and in pain after the unprovoked assault by a man with apparent mental health problems

His son Mike said: ‘A hospital is supposed to be a place of safety and solitude and you don’t expect to be beaten up when you go there.’

The incident follows revelations last week that two elderly patients were beaten to death in a different hospital by a paranoid schizophrenic armed with a walking stick, who had his anti-psychotic medication withheld despite warnings by his family of the consequences.

Ken Godward, 76, and Roger Lamb, 79, were attacked by Harry Bosomworth, 70, at St James’s Hospital in Leeds in February 2015, and died within days.

Mr Bosomworth, who died from cancer four months later, had lived a ‘happy and contented life’ for 50 years thanks to daily drugs that controlled his schizophrenia.

His stepdaughter Rita Martin said: ‘As soon as he got in that hospital, they stopped his medication and he suffered and suffered and suffered a mental torture that culminated in him killing two patients.’

The deaths were revealed in a leaked report highlighting failures by health professionals. No inquest has yet been held because NHS England is still investigating, but publicity about the case prompted Mr Sanderson’s family to speak out, fearing lessons were not being learnt.

The pensioner, known as Alf, was a retired assistant postmaster from York and married father of three, who remained relatively fit and active until his final months. He had undergone treatment for skin cancer and leukaemia over the previous decade yet soldiered on and would walk several miles a day as a member of a hiking club.

He was admitted to York District Hospital in September 2016 amid fears he may have suffered a stroke. Tests would later show his symptoms were caused by cancer spreading to his brain.

He was put on a ward with a heavily-built man, aged about 50, who was behaving strangely.

Mike Sanderson, 66, said: ‘He was ranting and raving and wouldn’t get into bed. He kept telling his wife he was going to go home.’

During the night the second man – whose identity remains unknown – launched the ferocious and unprovoked assault.

Mr Sanderson said: ‘Dad was asleep and woke up to this tremendous pain as this guy was attacking him.

‘He couldn’t defend himself but managed to shout out and two or three nurses came in and managed to get the guy off.’

The pensioner had two black eyes and cuts and bruising down the side of his face, and the entire side of his body was bruised. He also suffered acute shoulder pain for weeks.

‘He was black and blue,’ his son said. ‘He was upset and frightened and had nightmares every night from that day on. He would see Darth Vader standing at the bedroom door.’

To the family’s horror, medical staff wanted to leave both men in the same ward until the attacker could be moved to another hospital. A relative angrily insisted they be kept apart. The family was later told by police that the attacker’s mental health problems were the reason he was not prosecuted.

Mr Sanderson said medical staff claimed not to know the man had mental health issues and an internal inquiry concluded they weren’t to blame.

‘They kept saying they had learnt lessons but I don’t think they had learnt a thing,’ he said. ‘The response was pathetic. The police just said we could take civil proceedings if we wanted to, but my dad just wanted an apology.

‘They never gave him a verbal one and as his health failed we reminded them five or six times to apologise in writing. The letter arrived the day he died in a hospice and he never saw it.’

Mr Sanderson died on November 2 from the cancer, but his son believes the attack ‘hastened his death’.

A spokesman for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘At the time of the incident immediate risk assessments were carried out in order to prevent this happening again and the incident was reported to the police and the trust’s adult safeguarding team.

‘An internal investigation took place which found appropriate actions had been taken.

‘Patient safety is our highest priority and we are sorry for any distress caused to the patient and his family.’