Family Instruct Lawyers To Help Support Them Through Inquest Process
The family of a grandmother who died months after being diagnosed with a bacterial infection linked to a hospital outbreak have spoken for the first time about their loss.
Karen Starling was diagnosed with Mycobacterium Abscessus (M.abscessus) shortly after undergoing a double lung transplant at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge in May 2019. She had the lung condition COPD.
Following the infection, Karen, of Ipswich, developed pancreatitis. She died aged 54 in February 2020.
More than 20 patients infected with M.abscessus
A total of 21 patients with lung conditions were infected with M.abscessus in the months after the specialist heart and lung hospital opened in May 2019, a serious incident report found.
The “most credible source” of the outbreak was the hospital’s water supply becoming contaminated, the report by Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the site, found.
The Trust said there was no evidence patients became infected because of any problems with the clinical care provided to patients or the way facilities were managed at the hospital.
Lawyers support families following Royal Papworth infection outbreak
Following the death of Karen, a mum-of-six- which includes two stepchildren - and a grandmother-of-14, her family instructed specialist public health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help investigate and provide them with the answers they deserve.
The law firm represents a number of patients who were diagnosed with M.abscessus following surgery at the Royal Papworth.
Karen’s family have now spoken of their hope that the start of an inquest process will help provide them with answers.
Expert Opinion“Karen’s death has had a profound effect on all of her family who remain devastated by their loss.
“M.abscessus is incredibly dangerous and can lead to long-term health problems, and in the worst cases, death.
“Understandably Karen’s family and the other families we represent have a number of concerns about how they came to be infected with M.abscessus.
“We’re determined to provide families with the answers they deserve. The start of the inquest process is major milestone in being able to help Karen’s family.
“In the meantime we’ll continue to support the families we represent at this upsetting time." Jatinder Paul - Senior Associate Solicitor
Karen Starling's family pay tribute to loving and caring woman
In a statement Karen’s family said: “Karen was the most loving, kind and caring wife, mum and nanny anyone could ever wish for. She adored her family and was never happier than when spending time with them.
“Never did we think that when she had her operation things would turn out the way they did. The last few months of Karen’s life were a real struggle for her. Despite this she tried to face her challenges and showed great courage and bravery.
“We can’t thank enough all of the medical staff involved in Karen’s care – right from her lung transplant at the Royal Papworth until her death. All of the doctors, nurses and medical staff that Karen saw were kind, caring and efficient. However, we have so many unanswered questions about how Karen contracted M.abscessus and whether anything could have been done to prevent her illness.
“While time has moved on since Karen’s death our family hasn’t been able to. We know nothing can make up for what’s happened. We just want to honour Karen’s memory by establishing what happened.”
NHS report following M.abscessus outbreak makes recommendations
Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s report also made a number of recommendations. They included the removal and disinfection of contaminated water outlets such as shower heads, installing hydrogen peroxide plants so doses of the chemical could be sent through water pipes and the installation of automatic flushing systems to reduce stagnant water building up in pipes.
A pre-inquest review hearing into Karen’s death is due to take place at Cambridgeshire Coroner’s Court at Lawrence Court, Huntingdon, on 29 October.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families affected by illness and infection outbreaks at our dedicated public health section.