A Hospital Trust has admitted failing to provide proper care to prevent a great-grandmother who was dying of cancer developing bed sores which left her in ‘agony’ for her final days.
The 85-year-old patient had twice previously successfully battled cancer, but was given just a short time to live as the disease returned, with a cancerous mass discovered in her stomach.
She was admitted to Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool for pain management and relief, but the hospital failed to assess her vulnerability to developing bed sores on her admission – something done by taking what is known as a ‘Waterlow’ score.
Ward staff at the hospital, known as the Fazackley Hospital locally, also failed to put the patient on a special mattress or air flow cushion during her two week stay, which could have prevented the pressure sore from worsening.
Although a bed sore that developed at the base of her spine was noted, it was only assessed twice and no assessment was made before she was discharged home for palliative care by district nurses.
District nurses unaware of bed sore which was of the most severe kind
The woman’s son, who has asked not to be named, says neither the family nor the district nurses, were made aware of her sore when she returned home.
By that time it had developed to be a grade 4 pressure sore, the worst rating and the most severe type of ulcer where skin is severely damaged and the surrounding tissue begins to die.
In such cases the underlying muscles or bone may also be damaged.
He said the district nurses who were first called out thought they were coming to administer a blood clotting injection, and that his mother’s final weeks were so traumatic that he actually wanted her to die to end her pain.
“My mum’s cancer had literally burst out of her and my sister was given a pad to put around it. We didn’t know at this time that she also had this sore on her spine, but we later realised you could actually see her spine through it,” he said.
“The only image I have of my mum now is of her clutching tightly at her bed sheets on the hospital bed in their house, while trying to lift her spine off the bed. She couldn’t lie on her side because of the cancer.
“All I can remember of my mum is her screaming in pain. I didn’t even let my daughter, who was 13 at the time, go in to see her – and they were very close – because she was so bad.
“To say it was traumatic is a massive understatement. I actually wanted my mum to die, that’s how painful it was for her.”
Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted it failed to assess the elderly woman’s bed sore when she was admitted to hospital, and failed to make district nurses aware of the sore when they discharged her.
It also admitted failing to ensure the correct hospital equipment was used when caring for her sore.
Damages awarded after Hudgell Solicitors instructed to make medical negligence claim
The family has now been awarded a damages settlement after a legal case conducted through Hudgell Solicitors.
Solicitor Sarah Scully, a medical negligence specialist, said: “This was a very shocking and distressing case of neglect of an elderly and terminally ill patient who had been admitted to hospital for pain management and relief to make her final days more bearable.
“Instead, due to basic levels of care not being provided for a patient with limited movement, a bed sore was allowed to develop and progressed rapidly, causing severe pain to the point of her screaming in agony and trying to lift herself off her spine.
“She spent her final days in excruciating pain, causing a huge amount of distress to herself, her husband, her children and grandchildren, whose memories of her are now tainted by these tragic events. It was such a sad, avoidable end to her life.
“There has been recent research which suggests around 95 per cent of pressure ulcers and bed sores suffered by patients in hospitals and care homes across the country are avoidable with the right assessments, bedding and regular moving. That makes this all the more shocking.”
The woman died on August 11, 2015.
She had been admitted to the hospital on July 6, 2015 and was discharged on July 19. Her husband died six months later, and their son said it was a traumatic time for the whole extended family.
“We were all very close, my sister and I lived just a few doors away from my mum and dad, and my sister had to have six months off work as she was so devastated by it all,” he said.
“There are some amazing people in the NHS, who bend over backwards, but some of them seemed to just see it as a job, and won’t go the extra mile.”