District Nurse Administers Drug Overdose To Terminally Ill Mum

Medical Negligence Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell Investigate Care

05.08.2014

The family of a mum-of-three who was given an accidental overdose of a drug by an out-of-hours district nurse have spoken of their ongoing heartache.

Linda Jackson’s husband Tony is speaking out for the first time after a two-day inquest into the death of his wife of 28 years concluded today (5 August) with the Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East District), Mr R F Curtis, concluding that she died of natural causes.

Linda, 60, was receiving palliative care at home after developing renal failure following treatment for cervical cancer. Tony called the out of hours service on 18 August 2013 so she could be given medication for an irritating tickly cough.

Despite the Rehabilitation Assistant questioning the nurse over the amount of medication she planned to administer in a syringe, she went ahead and gave Linda 1.2mg of the drug Hyoscine Hydrobromide - a dose so high that it would normally be administered over a 24-hour continuous period through a syringe driver.

Within seconds Linda lost consciousness and collapsed, and after being rushed to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, doctors said there was nothing more they could do. An ambulance took her back to the family home in Balby, Doncaster, so she could die there with her loved ones around her, as she had previously wished. 

Following a police investigation no charges were brought. However, the family remained determined to get to the bottom of what happened and instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate.

The firm obtained a Serious Untoward Incident report prepared by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust following Linda’s death which concluded that the district nurse was confused by the palliative care paperwork – believing that the medication had been described as a single dose, instead of the intended route of a continuous regulated dose through a syringe driver over a 24-hour period.

In a bid to learn lessons, the Trust drew up an action plan which included making the syringe driver and non-syringe driver paperwork considerably different in appearance so it would be less easy to mistake the two forms, as well as increasing training amongst district nurses to ‘stress the critical importance and professional duty of nurses to check that the medication, dosage and route of administration are correct’.

The report also stated the lead nurse would be investigated under the Trust’s disciplinary procedures and referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for further consideration of her fitness to practice.

Rosie Charlton, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Linda’s family, said: “The last year has been incredibly difficult for Linda’s husband and three children as they’ve struggled to come to terms with the events that took place in the hours before Linda’s death.

“They understandably had questions about whether the drug overdose contributed to the sudden tragic outcome. Whilst the inquest did not determine that this was the case, the family are relieved the overdose has been investigated and that action points have been implemented by the Trust to prevent the same error from being repeated.”

Tony, 57, added: “Before the district nurses came out, Linda had been relatively well and comfortable other than suffering with an irritating cough that kept her awake through the night.

“I’ll never forget seeing her collapse before my eyes within seconds of the nurse injecting the drugs into her left thigh. I could tell by the look on the nurse’s face that she knew she had done something wrong immediately and she was phoning for help before she’d even left the bedroom.

“We are pleased the Trust has made improvements to try and prevent anyone else going through the same ordeal but it should not have taken the overdose given to my wife for this to happen. We would also like to know the result of the disciplinary proceedings the nurse was subject to following the incident as this will help to give us closure once and for all.

“We knew we didn’t have long left with Linda but those last few weeks were incredibly precious to all the family. Linda lived for those she loved and those she loved remember Linda.”


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