A NORTH-EAST surgeon yesterday admitted he was partly responsible for the death of a patient after what should have been a routine operation at a private hospital.

Barry Byers, 60, from Heighington, near Darlington, died after suffering internal bleeding following keyhole surgery for gallstones at the Cleveland Nuffield Hospital, in Norton, Teesside.

Surgeon Andrew Gunning told an inquest in Sunderland that despite his patient's blood pressure dropping to a very low level only two hours after the surgery - a classic sign of bleeding - he did not operate again until two days later.

By that stage, it was too late to save Mr Byers, who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and angina.

He was rushed to the intensive care unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital where he had a heart attack, brought on by the bleeding. He died of multiple organ failure on March 28 last year, a week after the first operation.

Asked by Jeremy Freedman, barrister for Mr Byers' widow, Sandra, whether he accepted some responsibility for the fatal outcome, Mr Gunning said he did.

"I think things could have been done differently in some stages," he said.

Earlier, Mrs Byers told the hearing how she became extremely concerned for her husband, a retired mortgage manager, soon after the operation.

"He was clearly unwell," she said. "He was sick several times. He was clammy to touch.

"He couldn't communicate with us terribly well at all."

Mr Gunning told the hearing he visited his patient twice the day after the first operation but did not ask for any investigations to be carried out, despite suspecting there could be bleeding.

He said he felt the best course of action was continued observation.

He also revealed he did not leave instructions to hospital staff for Mr Byers' post-operative care on the night of the surgery, did not ask nurses to contact him if there was a deterioration in his condition, and did not make complete medical notes on his patient.

The hearing resumes today.