A Hospital Trust has admitted the poor care provided to an 83-year-old patient led to him suffering six falls in less than a month – one resulting in a broken hip which ultimately led to his death two weeks later.
Former Merchant Navy shipwright and seaman carpenter Thomas Brown had lived a fully independent life until he was admitted to South Tyneside District Hospital after becoming increasingly confused at home, and having suffered a recent fall.
His family hoped he’d be better protected from potential harm with hospital care, but in a matter of weeks he’d suffered a series of falls resulting in his broken hip. After undergoing surgery to repair the break, Mr Brown suffered a further fall the following day and died two weeks later after developing urinary sepsis.
Patient’s health deteriorated quickly after hospital admission
Despite suffering from prostate cancer, Mr Brown, the father of seven children, a grandfather to 19 and great-grandfather of nine, was described by his daughter Kaye as being active and independent prior to attending hospital.
He lived alone at home doing his own washing, shopping and enjoying regular 45 minute walks to keep fit and active. However, on admission to hospital his health deteriorated quickly.
“The care for my father in hospital was appalling, he should have been placed under close supervision to prevent him falling as he was confused, but he suffered fall after fall in a matter of weeks,” said his daughter Kaye Millward, 41.
“He never suffered any falls when we were there with him as we often stayed for around 10 hours when we visited. However, when we left it was clear that staff weren’t looking after him as he kept having fall after fall.
Family felt hospital ward was ‘chaotic’
Mrs Millward says hospital staff reassured them that her father was being appropriately cared for when they asked questions and raised concerns, with an alarm put in place to alert staff should he attempt to leave his bed.
However, she says she and her family witnessed many occasions during visiting times when other patients on the same ward started to wander, without staff attending quickly despite alarms sounding.
“There were many times that we’d see other patients get out of bed. Alarms were sounding and we’d put them back, and it would be ages before any nurses came and responded. It was like they were understaffed and the organisation was chaotic,” she said.
“Looking back, we should have just taken him out of hospital there and then and taken him home with us, especially after he’d had the first couple of falls, but you trust that doctors are looking after them and you think they are in the best place.”
Falls led to various injuries and broken hip
Mr Brown suffered his first fall in hospital just two days after he’d been admitted, suffering an injury to his elbow whilst attempting to get out of bed. The next day, he was transferred to another ward, when he was noted to have ‘tripped in the bay’ and fell backwards, banging his head.
Two days later, staff at the hospital reported hearing a bang from his room, when he was believed to have fallen out of his bed and hit the radiator. He then suffered a further fall three days later after an attempt to go to the toilet unaided, whilst the person providing one-to-one supervision was on a meal break.
“My father was just simply not given basic care,” added Mrs Millward.
“How hard can it be to make sure somebody else is covering for you to look after a patient when you go on a break? It’s like they didn’t care.”
Two weeks later, Mr Brown suffered the injury which ultimately led to his death, as he fell outside the fire doors at the end of the ward and fractured his hip. This meant he had to undergo a hip screw fixation, but even after this he suffered a fall on the ward a day later, suffering an injury to his head.
Mr Brown died two weeks later, with the cause of death recorded as urinary sepsis, prostate cancer and a fractured hip contributory factors.
‘South Shields Hospital failed to follow basic standards of care’ – medical negligence solicitor Nasreen Khan
Medical negligence solicitor Nasreen Khan, of specialists Hudgell Solicitors, led the legal case against South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, which runs South Tyneside District Hospital, on behalf of Mr Brown’s family. It has resulted in a damages settlement being reached with the family.
She said there were clear failings in care which ultimately led to Mr Brown losing his life.
The hospital failed to follow basic standards of care for Mr Brown upon his admission and these failings ultimately led to his death following the fall which caused him to suffer a broken hip.
An Independent Nursing Consultant who examined the case concluded that Mr Brown was clearly a patient at a high risk of falls, and that with appropriate care the risk could have been significantly reduced to being minimal.
Sadly, the failure to follow basic standards of care has led to the loss of a much loved father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His family’s frustration and anger is understandable.
Hospital admits failings and agrees compensation after legal action through Hudgell Solicitors
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust admitted it had failed to correctly assess Mr Brown’s risk of falls on admission to hospital, leading to a failure to class him as a ‘high risk’.
It admitted this therefore meant they failed to carry out daily assessments, and failed to ensure he had one-to-one care during nursing breaks.
The Trust admitted that had it taken appropriate action and introduced the relevant care plans following Mr Brown’s first fall, the subsequent falls and injuries suffered could have been avoided.
It also admitted Mr Brown’s death can be attributed to the fall, resulting in the fractured neck of the femur, without which he would not have required surgery and developed urosepsis and subsequently died.’
Mrs Millward added:
I want people to know how the hospital let my father down. The fact that he still suffered another fall the day after his operation says it all.
There is no way I’d let any other members of my family go there again. They’ve admitted being at fault for my father’s death and other people need to know what happened. It is disgraceful.