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NHS Trust Admits Neglecting Woman Whose Third Degree Burn Was Left Untreated For An Hour

‘Lessons Must Be Learnt’ Says Horrified Daughter


The daughter of a woman who suffered third degree burns from a hot drink spillage which hospital staff failed to treat for nearly an HOUR have called on the NHS Trust responsible to confirm standards have improved to prevent anyone else suffering the same ‘atrocious’ ordeal.

An internal investigation by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust following the incident in July 2012 found that the severe injury 78-year-old Margaret Downs suffered whist a patient on a stroke ward was as a result of ‘wilful neglect’ by hospital staff – who said they did not have first aid training in burns to treat her.

The report identified an action plan for the Trust to prevent a repeat incident, but Mrs Downs’ daughter, Valerie Wintrup, says she has had no confirmation that this has been implemented and has concerns about the safety of other vulnerable patients.

Valerie is speaking out for the first time after expert medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, who she instructed to investigate her mum’s care at Maidstone Hospital before her unrelated death on 26 September 2012, secured the family an undisclosed settlement and apology from the Trust for failures in Mrs Down’s care.

But the 58-year-old says she cannot begin to move forward until she knows the recommendations in the action plan have been implemented so other patients are no longer at risk. These included:
• Reviewing the Red Tray Policy (red trays indicate patients who need assistance with feeding) to ensure it includes information with drinking;
• To look at ways of delivering basic first aid in relation to burns and scalds and to identify staff groups who should have the training;
• Having a dedicated staff member attached to the ward to deliver drinks to patients;
• Checking whether the burns policy meets requirements to inform staff and ensure that patients are safe.

Lauren Hurney, is a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Valerie. 

Expert Opinion
The injuries Mrs Downs suffered to her legs and stomach were truly horrific and left her in a tremendous amount of pain.

“She was admitted to Maidstone Hospital for end of life care following a fall that resulted in a brain haemorrhage and Valerie thought her mum was in the safest place possible. She has understandably found it very hard to come to terms with the fact that this was not the case and her suffering was worsened by the actions of hospital staff.

“Whilst Mrs Downs death was unrelated to the burn, her family still wanted to know how it was possible for her to suffer such a horrific injury and why she was left without treatment for so long.

“We support Valerie in her calls to the Trust to confirm that standards have improved and the action plan has been implemented so that other vulnerable patients are not at risk.”
Lauren Hurney, Associate

Mrs Downs was admitted to Maidstone Hospital on 11 July 2012 following a fall at her home in Allington Kent. A CT scan revealed she had suffered a right-sided brain haemorrhage that was too severe to operate on and she would be kept on the stroke ward for palliative (end of life) care.

On the evening of 15 July the hospital phoned Valerie to say her mother had suffered a small scald and was led to believe it was nothing serious. But when she visited her the next day and discovered a large burn to her mum’s lap and stomach that was causing her a huge amount of pain and distress she was appalled and determined to get to the bottom of what had happened.

Valerie, 58 from Allington Kent, said: “I found out that the table that was usually placed at the bottom of my mum’s bed had been moved up so the hot drink was within her grasp, although she did not have the strength or co-ordination to clasp the handle.

“No one was with her when the incident happened but I can only think she tried to reach for the drink but dropped it in the process. When I saw her the next day I was appalled and she said she had shouted out in pain but no one had come to help her.

“I then found out it was 55 minutes before the burns had been attended to and dressed, despite the doctors being bleeped immediately to attend to my mum. When I found out the nurses could not treat her because they weren’t trained in first aid for burns I was in total shock.

“I couldn’t believe that no one other than a doctor could help her whilst she was crying out in agony and clearly severely injured.

“Nothing can turn back the clock or make up for the atrocious ordeal my mum had to go through in her final days but I want to ensure what she went through was not in vain. Lessons must be learnt by the Trust and I need to know that those vital improvements have been made. Otherwise there’s nothing to prevent the same thing happening to other vulnerable patients at Maidstone Hospital.”

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