A Kingston Hospital patient starved to death after being left for 26 days without a feeding tube, a damning report has revealed.

Down’s syndrome sufferer Martin Ryan, 43, was said to be the victim of a “communication failure” between doctors and nurses and died in hospital.

Mr Ryan’s case is due to be ruled on by a health watchdog later this month, along with five others highlighted by charity Mencap in its 2007 report Death by Indifference.

Mr Ryan, who had severe learning difficulties and could not speak, was admitted to Kingston Hospital after suffering a stroke. While in hospital he also contracted pneumonia, the report said.

An internal investigation by the hospital found there had been a “multidisciplinary communication failure”, which resulted in the doctor being “under the impression” that the nurses had been feeding Martin through a naso-gastric tube.

By the time doctors decided after 21 days that Mr Ryan was malnourished and needed a feeding tube directly into his stomach, his body was in no state to handle the operation. He died five days later on December 21, 2005.

His family, from Richmond, complained to the hospital and reported his case to the Healthcare Commission.

A relative described him as “the light of my life” with a “quirky sense of humour and oodles of charm”.

In a statement, Kingston Hospital’s chief executive Kate Grimes accepted that the hospital’s failure to provide nutrition was “inexcusable” and said staff had been deeply affected by the tragedy.

She added: “Since Mr Ryan’s death in 2005, we have opened a dedicated stroke unit to provide specialist care to patients.

“We have also introduced a care “passport” for patients with learning disabilities. This makes staff aware of patients’ specific care needs on admission to hospital, and ensures that care is tailored to individual needs. Training has been given to key staff and nutrition policies have been strengthened.”

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap said: “We find it incredible that anyone could spend 26 days in hospital and not be fed. That was clearly what killed him.

“When you have got someone with a severe learning difficulty who cannot communicate verbally they get ignored and staff in their subconscious do not value them, so they don’t get the care or attention they deserve.”

Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, is expected to publish her report later this month. If she finds the hospital to have been negligent it will be given a strict list of recommendations to improve future care.