The widower of a woman who died three days after being refused an ultrasound scan that could have saved her life has spoken out about his heartbreak.

Alan Sledmere lost his wife of 24 years, Shirley, on November 6, 2016 from a perforated gallbladder.

Just three days before she died, Mrs Sledmere, from Sidcup was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital with severe abdominal pain, but was sent home because no ultrasound appointments were available.

The hospital diagnosed her with gallstones or gastritis when they sent her home on November 3, 2016.

Concerned for his wife’s welfare, Mr Sledmere booked her in for a private ultrasound scan on November 7.

Unfortunately, Mrs Sledmere collapsed the day before she could make it to the scan. Although her husband called an ambulance, she died before paramedics arrived.

Speaking of his loss, Mr Sledmere said: “I cannot believe the pain and suffering Shirley had to go through in the final days of her life.

“I cannot begin to put into words what it was like watching her die in front of me while waiting for the ambulance.

“I felt so powerless that I was unable to help Shirley when she needed it the most.

“Our family have been left devastated by Shirley’s death.

“We feel that if Shirley had received an ultrasound when she was first admitted to hospital, doctors could have realised the seriousness of her condition and not sent her home.

“We feel that doctors would then have been able to spot the warning signs and taken appropriate action and she may still be alive.”

After Mrs Sledmere died, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust carried out an investigation which found that an ultrasound would probably have shown Shirley’s perforated gallbladder.

The report admitted “there may have been an opportunity to alter the outcome,” and recommended staff are always available to give ultrasounds to patients who need it.

It also admitted that when Mrs Sledmere was sent home, she and her husband should have been better informed about what to do if her condition deteriorated.

After Mr Sledmere wrote to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to share his concerns, Mr Hunt said the availability of scanning machines was a decision for individual NHS trusts.

However, he did admit that “the general expectation” across the NHS was that patients taken to A&E “should have immediate access” to services like ultrasound scans.

Mr Sledmere’s lawyer, Kimberley Nightingale of Irwin Mitchell, said: “Alan and the rest of the family have been left devastated by Shirley’s death and feel that more should have been done to help diagnose her condition.”

She added that she was investigating the concerns found from the NHS trust’s report “to ensure it implements the recommendations made.”