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Alston Woman Neglected in Carlisle Hospital

The daughter of an Alston woman who died within 12 hours of being discharged from the Cumberland Infirmary is taking legal action against the hospital.

A retired shorthand typist, Dorothy Barnett, 95, was covered in bed sores when she was transferred back to Alston Cottage Hospital on 23rd March 2010 after a seven day stay in the Carlisle hospital for an endoscopic assessment. She died in the early hours of 24th March.

Mrs Barnett’s daughter Alix Martin is now launching a claim against the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust on the grounds that its negligent treatment hastened the death of her mother.

Alix said, “Mum had recently had a stroke which affected her lower body movement, but had all her faculties, was very upbeat and looking forward to coming to live with me after 11 years in a care home and  5 weeks in Alston Cottage Hospital. Although she had frail skin tissue from years of prescription steroids, her skin had previously been well-managed by frequent turning and using special dressings if outbreaks did occur. However, when she was in Cumberland Infirmary she developed extensive sores on her arms, legs and back. She was in considerable discomfort. When she came back to Alston Cottage Hospital, staff were so concerned they took photographs.”

As well as concerns about the management of her mother’s skin, Alix has serious concerns about fundamental standards of nursing care at Cumberland Infirmary.

She said, “My mother was completely dependent on the nurses, but they failed to meet even her basic needs: the water was out of her reach; there was no evidence of her being fed properly and she was often covered only with a single sheet and complaining of being cold. Her basic needs of food, water and warmth were not being met. If she had been in my care and I had treated her like that, I would have been prosecuted. They should be held to account.”

When Mrs Barnett died, her death was referred to HM Coroner and an investigation set up by the Trust. Alix complained formally in April 2010 and in September, she received a response.

“I’m absolutely disgusted with their response. One paragraph even apologises for leaving Mum in stained clothing following meals, but this was not an issue I had raised. They also mention a dietician prescribing food supplements – the dietician was a visiting friend of mine who saw immediately that Mum was dehydrated and requested a nutritional drink which I helped her to drink.  They were certainly not taking the initiative.  There is no care, not even in compiling their report.”

Alix is being represented by Emma Brough, an associate legal executive at Burnetts Solicitors. Emma said, “Our first task is to obtain Mrs Barnett’s medical records and to carry out a full review - it will be interesting to see what has and has not been documented. We are also waiting for a date to be set for Mrs Barnett’s inquest and will be working with the Coroner to ensure that all Alix’s concerns are addressed and thoroughly investigated.”

Mrs Barnett, who had won a Pitman’s shorthand prize in her younger days, had been living in a care home in Poole for many years, but was moving to Alston to live with and be cared for by Alix. Her stay in Cumberland Infirmary should have been a maximum of two days.

Earlier this month, The Patients’ Association published a collection of firsthand accounts of hospital care of older patients from across the NHS which highlighted serious failings in standards of nursing care, poor communication with relatives and an ineffective complaints handling system. That report is available at: http://www.patients-association.com/dbimgs/Listen%20to%20patients,%20Speak%20up%20for%20change(1).pdf

Published: Tuesday 4th January 2011
Categorised: Medical Negligence

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