Niece Of Pressure Sores Victim Speaks Of Anger At Lack Of Compassion From NHS Trust

Expert Lawyers Urge Trust To Give Reassurance Lessons Have Been Learnt


By Helen MacGregor

The heartbroken niece of a pensioner who died following the development of horrific bedsores caused by hospital staff’s ‘complete disregard for patient compassion and dignity’, has spoken of her anger that she has received no apology or proof that any lessons have been learnt.

Molly Etty, 84, was admitted to Southend Hospital, Essex, in July 2011 after she fell at home and needed a hip replacement.

Her niece, Lynda Clifford was told it was a routine operation and she would be back home within days, but just two months later, she died of a blood infection after suffering a horrific pressure sore the size of a fist and as deep as the coccyx bone in her back which left her crying out in agony.

Lynda, 59, instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to help find answers about why her Aunt suffered so much and whether more could have been done to prevent her death following the operation.

The law firm’s investigations found that Southend University Hospitals NHS Trust had failed to do any of the following:

  • Ensure Molly was nursed on an air mattress as recommended in NICE guidelines to prevent pressure sores
  • Implement a care management plan ensuring Molly was regularly turned and moved to prevent pressure sores, despite staff being aware that she was at risk of developing them
  • To send a nurse over the course of three days to assess her skin, despite a referral being made and regularly failed to monitor and assess Molly
  • To diagnose the pressure sore until it was classed as grade 3 (grade 5 is the most serious)

The Trust agreed to pay Lynda an undisclosed settlement for her loss, but she says no amount of money can make up for the suffering her Aunt went through and she still struggles to come to terms with her loss because she’s been offered no apology or reassurance that lessons have been learnt.

Laura Barlow, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office representing the family, said: “This is a tragic case that saw a relatively healthy pensioner deteriorate to her death because hospital staff failed to follow simple guidelines that are recommended to prevent pressure sores.

“Pressure sores are completely preventable if the guidelines are followed, which is what makes Molly’s death particularly difficult for Lynda to come to terms with.

“Sadly, we see similar mistakes being made by other trusts across the country and enough is enough. Lessons must be learnt and shared throughout the NHS to protect patient safety and prevent anyone else from dying needlessly and in agony from something that basic nursing care can prevent.”

Molly, who lived with Lynda in Canvey Island, was admitted to Southend Hospital on 8 July 2011 and underwent a risk assessment where it was noted she had a dressing on her back for a sore previously caused by shingles. A referral was made for the tissue viability nurse but the hip replacement went ahead and it was three days before she was examined.

She was declared as being at high risk of developing pressure sores but despite this, was not transferred to a pressure relieving mattress or given regular positional turns.

On 12 July Molly was finally given the appropriate mattress and the sore on the base of her back was assessed. It was noted as being red but it was a further two days before staff diagnosed it, by which time it was a grade three sore.

Molly was allowed home in the company of two occupational therapists on 25 July for an hour and a half for them to asses her requirements. It was at this time Lynda remarked on a foul smell which the therapists informed her were due to the pressure sore. This was the first time that Lynda became aware of the severity of the sore.

When Molly was returned to the hospital, she was placed in a side ward on her own. The sore continued to worsen and on 2 August Molly was discharged from the surgical team and transferred to a care home where Lynda was informed her dressings would be renewed every day.

Lynda, who is now retired, said: “The care home staff were fantastic and did everything they could to try and make my Aunt comfortable. However, by this point the sore had become so deep and infected you could almost see the bone and she cried in pain as it was re-dressed.

“It was horrific to see her suffer so much but there was nothing I could do because the wound had been left untreated for so long.

“My Aunt died on 7 September at the home by which time the sore was 10cm by 8cm on her back. I was appalled that she had been relatively healthy before going into hospital but the lack of care she was given meant her health deteriorated so quickly.

“The staff at Southend Hospital seemed to have a complete disregard for patient compassion and dignity. They knew my Aunt was at risk of pressure sores and knew the risks of not following appropriate guidelines but they failed to protect her and give her the care she deserved.

“To make things worse, I have not once been offered an apology or reassurance that improvements have been made. Until that happens, I will never truly be able to move forward with my life and come to terms with what happened to my Aunt Molly.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence claims