A PENSIONER who died in hospital suffered "appalling" care which led to him being infected with the MRSA superbug, his family claimed today.

They say Ernest Wilde was "left to die in a distressed state and without the dignity any human being deserves".

An investigation is now under way at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) in Winchester following a list of allegations surrounding his treatment.

News of the complaint comes on the day Health Minister John Denham MP is due to launch new hospital league tables that will highlight how every hospital is doing in the battle against dirty wards and infections acqu-ired while in hospital.

Mr Wilde, 67, from Jarvis Fields, Bursledon, went into the RHCH on May 3 for an operation for cancer of the colon.

At an inquest in Winchester last week, central Hampshire deputy coroner Simon Burge said Mr Wilde had died of blood poisoning after a line into him became infected with MRSA.

Mr Burge took the unusual step of recording a verdict of accidental death.

The pensioner, who had been married to his wife Marion for 47 years, was a father of four and a great grandfather.

One of his sons, Andrew, said the family wrote their complaint after consulting a log of events kept by both Mrs Wilde and a neighbour, Eileen Brennan.

He explained that the family did not want compensation but assurances that it would not happen to anyone else.

They criticised hygiene and general cleanliness on the ward and feel more should be done to counter the MRSA bug.

The infection is common to hospitals and resistant to antibiotics.

Andrew, from Weavers Place, Chandler's Ford, said the family criticised staff for saying their father died of pneumonia, with no initial mention of suffering MRSA.

He added: "When challenged, this was indicated as a contributing factor.''

He accused the hospital of "sweeping the magnitude of the problem under the carpet".

Mrs Wilde, who is disabled, said the family complained to staff about his care while her husband was in hospital.

She said: "As a family we saw these things happen to him. The standard of care was bad. My husband had been in the RHCH the previous year for his cancer and he kept saying 'I am not being looked after like I was last year' and he was on a different ward."

Hospital spokeswoman Carol Hemsley confirmed a complaint had been received and was being investigated.

Ms Hemsley said: "We are very sorry that the family have felt the need to complain about the treatment of Mr Wilde.

"We would like to offer our condolences to the family."