Former Castle Howard boss died after ‘being prescribed too much insulin’
A disgraced aristocrat whose family runs the stately home Castle Howard died days after being given excess insulin in hospital, an inquest has heard.
Simon Howard, 66, died at York Hospital on February 27 last year, with an inquest in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, told he had “unstable diabetes” and epilepsy.
York Hospital bosses today (Tuesday) apologised "unreservedly" and said a full investigation had taken place resulting in "new guidance and protocols for all staff".
Months before his death, in November 2021, Mr Howard received an absolute discharge at York Crown Court after a jury found he indecently assaulted a young girl in 1984 but was unfit to stand trial due to a brain injury he suffered in a fall in 2020.
He was taken to York Hospital on February 15 2022 after a suspected stroke and prescribed medicine containing 24 units of insulin in the morning and 30 in the evening before being discharged the next day.
The family’s personal assistant, Christine Sadler, who helped Mr Howard with his medication, told the inquest that only weeks previously his usual dose at home had been 18 units in the morning and the same in the evening.
North Yorkshire assistant coroner Sarah Watson said it was unclear how the discrepancy in the amount of insulin prescribed came about, particularly as a phone call was made from the hospital to Ms Sadler to check with her.
When a member of the pharmacy team queried the amount, an unnamed doctor overruled the question.
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Father-of-two Mr Howard, a managing director of the firm running Castle Howard and who was married to Rebecca, was discharged and prescribed with the higher insulin dose to continue taking.
He was found unconscious at home on February 19 after suffering hypoglycemic encepthalophy – extremely low blood sugar levels – and never recovered, dying in hospital on February 27.
The coroner gave a narrative conclusion, saying Mr Howard died “as a consequence of the recognised exacerbating effects of excess insulin administration on pre-existing naturally occurring disease, and brain injury following a fall”.
The inquest was told Mr Howard was possibly “intoxicated” when he fell down the stairs at his home in 2020, was found by his son, taken to hospital and left permanently brain damaged.
Mr Howard had been the custodian of Castle Howard – the backdrop to films and the hit TV shows Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited – and ran the house for 30 years.
But, after a family disagreement, he moved out of the stately home and was living nearby in Welham Hall.
After the inquest, his loved ones released a statement saying they had been anxious to learn what had happened to him.
Mrs Howard said: “I am grateful to the coroner for answering some of the questions we had about the circumstances of Simon’s death.
“Simon was far from being a well man – he suffered traumatic brain injuries from a fall downstairs at home in early 2020, he had recently had a suspected stroke and was struggling to manage his Type 1 diabetes – but when he was admitted to hospital, none of us imagined that he wouldn’t be coming home.
“At least now we have a better understanding of what happened.”
A spokesperson for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs York Hospital, said: “We sincerely regret the circumstances of Mr Howard’s death, and we apologise unreservedly to his family.
“We take situations such as the events surrounding Mr Howard’s death extremely seriously and all incidents of this nature are investigated thoroughly to prevent the likelihood of similar incidents happening again.
"This investigation resulted in significant learning and important changes, with new guidance and protocols for all staff in our hospitals, which have since been implemented.”
The Howards of Castle Howard are descended from a younger son of the ninth earl of Carlisle.