'If we hadn't moved back up north, my husband would still be alive'

Wayne with two of his four children
-Credit: (Image: Family photo)


As Wayne Parrott and his wife Catherine looked ahead to their retirement, they wanted nothing more than to return to their native North West.

With Catherine's family being based in Lancashire the couple decided to move from Surrey up to Goosnargh. But within a matter of months, tragedy had struck.

Wayne had died - and today, Catherine is in no doubt that he would still be here if they had stayed put.

Lancashire is currently in the grip of a postcode lottery. The trust which runs the Royal Preston Hospital has, since 2021, been commissioned by the NHS to provide a regional stroke service between 9am and 5pm seven days a week, but due to recruitment issues has only recently been able to offer thrombectomies at weekends.

Although the end is in sight; with NHS bosses confirming in January that Preston will offer a weekend thrombectomy service from September this year, patients are still slipping through the gap. One of those patients was Wayne Parrott.

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Wayne, who was born in Stockport, was a fit and healthy mountain biker who loved the outdoors. The dad-of-four had enjoyed a successful career with Royal Mail, as head of new business specialist services, until he and Catherine reached their 60s and began to plan their retirement.

"We were on the verge of retiring, and Wayne was looking at taking redundancy, and it just seemed the perfect time to move back up north," Catherine told LancsLive. "We moved to Goosnargh at the end of October 2023 and it was when Wayne dislocated his shoulder that he was told he had atrial fibrillation."

Atrial fibrillation is a condition that causes an irregular and often fast heartbeat. He was started on betablockers but on the first day he took the medication he suffered a catastrophic stroke.

"It was 11.30pm on a Friday night, on February 16, and we'd been at a dinner dance at Mitton Hall (near Clitheroe) so the ambulance took him to the Royal Blackburn Hospital," Catherine said.

"He was completely paralysed down one side. It was a major stroke. The stroke nurse said he was an ideal candidate for thrombectomy but they couldn't do it as it was a weekend."

Catherine and Wayne with their two children
Catherine and Wayne with their two children -Credit:Family photo

The following day, on February 17, doctors told Catherine that there was nothing more they could do for lifelong Man City fan Wayne. He died later that day aged 64.

A thrombectomy involves using a specially-designed device inserted through a catheter to pull or suck out the clot and restore blood flow. If Wayne's clot had been removed by the procedure there is a good chance he would have survived.

Since September 2023 Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Preston Hospital, has intermittently operated a weekend thrombectomy service with existing staff taking on additional shifts. However, due to staff availability, the service wasn't being run on the weekend Wayne suffered his stroke.

Since April of this year however, the trust has suspended all weekend thrombectomy cover until the team is in a position to provide a consistent service. A second angiogram theatre is also being constructed at Preston.

"It shouldn't have happened," Catherine said. "How many more will die before Lancashire's NHS postcode lottery ends?

"I know they've said that from September it will be at weekends but people are still dying. It's awful to say it but if we had stayed in Surrey, where they do offer it, Wayne would probably still be alive today."

Catherine contacted LancsLive about her husband's story after reading of the case of Edna Moss who died at Rivington Park Nursing Home in Chorley in February last year. The 79-year-old suffered a stroke at a weekend and therefore couldn't have a thrombectomy.

Royal Preston Hospital is one of three in the North West; alongside Salford Royal and Walton in Liverpool, to offer thrombectomies, but difficulties in recruiting and retaining the specialists needed to perform the procedure mean that the service is under immense pressure nationwide.

Wayne was a well-respected senior boss at Royal Mail
Wayne was a well-respected senior boss at Royal Mail -Credit:Family photo

The lack of a seven-day, out of hours service was highlighted last November following the death of 31-year-old Sarah Read from Burnley. Sarah died in August 2022 after she missed the 'deadline' for the life-saving procedure.

Following the inquest Area Coroner Chris Long issued a report which called on NHS England to make changes. While Mr Long did not directly attribute Sarah's death to the lack of available treatment after the 5pm cut off, he warned that failure to address it could lead to more deaths.

In his response Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, offered his "deep condolences to Sarah’s family and loved ones" and said: "NHS England are keen to assure the family and the coroner that the concerns raised about Sarah’s care have been listened to and reflected upon."

Prof Powis added: "For Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), mechanical thrombectomy operated Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm prior to September 2023.

"Since September 2023, and following a successful recruitment campaign, the Trust has been able to increase its number of interventional radiologists to enable the service to operate seven days a week, 8am to 6pm.

"A further expansion plan is now in place, with the ambition to further extend the hours to between 8am and 11pm seven days a week from April 2024 and for the service to operated 24/7 from September 2024.

"My Specialised Commissioning colleagues expect a business case from LTH imminently to support this plan.

"Additionally, there are building works currently underway to accommodate a second bi-plane angiogram unit, which are expected to be completed by Summer 2024. LTH are currently being supported by Specialised Commissioning with their capital bid for this second biplane which will also need to be supported by a successful recruitment campaign.

"There are several interdependencies to achieve the 24/7 thrombectomy service, and the North West Specialised Commissioning Team are supporting LTH to understand the risks and mitigations required. LTH have confirmed that they are committed to operating the 24/7 service by September 2024."

While Catherine has welcomed the improvement to local services it doesn't detract from the heartbreak of losing her beloved husband. Hundreds of people made the journey up to Lancashire to attend his funeral while tributes described him as a "top bloke and a true gentleman".

"Why should we have to wait until September? I know the service is under pressure with recruitment, and I don't blame the doctors involved, but something has to be done - and now," Catherine added.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said “We have spoken and written to Ms Walsh to offer our sincere condolences on the death of her husband and to confirm that an investigation will take place. We remain committed to operating a weekend Thrombectomy service as soon as we have sufficient numbers of the specialist colleagues needed to run this on a consistent and sustainable basis.”