Calls For Burton NHS Trust To Make Urgent Improvements After Mum Died Following Months Of Agony

‘Trust Must Learnt Lessons To Improve Standards Of Care,’ Says Expert Lawyer

18.09.2014

The devastated daughters of a woman who died following a catalogue of errors by hospital staff have called on Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which remains in special measures, to improve services for the elderly after she suffered months of agony before her death.

Ethel Sanders, from Burntwood in Staffordshire died at Queen’s Hospital in Burton in March 2011 after developing multi organ failure, internal bleeding and sepsis due to a delay in receiving surgery and poor post-operative care.

Expert evidence commissioned by medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who were instructed to investigate the services provided by the Trust found:

• There was a two month delay in Ethel having surgery to treat colovescial fistula - a condition which affects the colon and the bladder causing pain and infection; 
• When she did have a laproscopy (keyhole surgery) to treat the problem, it was performed negligently causing a tear to the ovarian vein;
• It was not until the following day that doctors diagnosed her deteriorating condition as being linked to the tear and despite undergoing further surgery, it was too late and she died over a week later.

The Trust admitted breaching the duty of care it owed to the 85-year-old and has now agreed to pay the family an undisclosed five-figure settlement for their loss.

However, daughters Linda Ward and Sandra Neal say they remain deeply concerned by standards within the Trust and say they have no faith that lessons have been learnt after it was revealed last month that the Trust remains in special measures. Chief Inspector of Hospitals Sir Mike Richards found that the level of medical care offered was still inadequate, while six of eight areas still required further improvement. 

Expert Opinion
This is a truly tragic case where hospital staff failed to give Ethel the appropriate care before, during and after surgery.

“Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has repeatedly been found to be providing sub-standard care and it is clear standards will not improve until lessons are learnt. Steps must be taken to ensure staff are trained and have the appropriate resource to provide patients with the health service they deserve.

“Despite the admission from the Trust, the family have received no apology or reassurance that their mum’s death has not been in vain and it remains incredibly hard for them to come to terms with what happened.

“Patients deserve fast access to good quality care regardless of their age or condition and we hope that the Trust will improve its services to ensure this is always the case.”
Hannah Wallace, Solicitor

The retired housewife had an extensive history of bowel problems and first visited hospital in 16 November 2010 with symptoms of pain and urinary problems. A scan revealed she was suffering from colovescial fistula.

On 21 December she had a further consultation which recommended she undergo the keyhole procedure however no date was set.

Her symptoms of pain and fever deteriorated so severely that she was rushed to A&E at Queen’s Hospital twice in February 2011 and told she would be given surgery but it was not until she was diagnosed with septicaemia and fighting for her life that a date was set on 3 March to treat her. 

But after surgery, Mrs Sanders condition significantly deteriorated and she remained in intensive care. It was only the following day that doctors realised an ovarian vein had been torn during the keyhole procedure which was causing septicaemia to spread into her bloodstream.

She died on 13 March of multi-organ failure caused by blood poisoning.

Linda, aged 61 From Hednesford said: “We remain devastated by the loss of our mum – it was extremely difficult to see her suffer like she did. She was in absolute agony for weeks but there seemed to be no hurry to try and help her and we felt completely helpless.

“From start to finish my mum did not receive an acceptable level of care and it is simply not good enough. What makes us so angry is that the Trust is clearly not making good enough improvements as it is one of the few hospitals to remain in special measures.

“Mum was vulnerable and elderly and should have been treated with compassion and integrity but we saw none of that and it is heart breaking to think of how she suffered. 

“Action must be taken to improve services for both the elderly, and patients in general to prevent anyone else from going through such a horrific ordeal and to restore faith in the services it provides.”