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Inquest Finds Fall Complications Led To Death Of Wolverhampton Woman

Family Pleased With Inquest Verdict


A three day inquest at Wolverhampton Coroner’s Court into the death of 76 year-old Eileen Lawley following a catalogue of care errors drew to a close today. The coroner passed a narrative verdict highlighting a number of issues regarding Mrs Lawley’s care at Woden Resource Centre and New Cross Hospital, both in Wolverhampton.

The coroner, Mr Allen found that Mrs Lawley died as result of complications following a fall, where Mrs Lawley was dropped from a hoist at Woden Resource Centre. She sustained two fractures, one of which was not immediately diagnosed by New Cross Hospital. She also suffered gangrene of her left leg and constipation.

This week’s hearing was launched after Mr Allen, the Coroner, initially opened and adjourned the inquest to investigate further.   

Eileen’s daughter, Karen O’Neill, said: “We as a family are pleased with the inquest investigation and today’s verdict. We believe that our mother was treated terribly. She had numerous medical problems but still had some good years left to share with us. We believe it likely that the fall from the hoist at Woden Resource Centre and the poor care at New Cross Hospital directly led to our mum’s death.”

Ally Taft, a solicitor at the Birmingham offices of law firm Irwin Mitchell, is representing Mrs O’Neill and her family. She said:  “Karen believes that her mum was treated in an awful fashion and suffered terrible indignities because people thought that she didn’t matter as she was elderly and a double-amputee. The end of her life was unnecessarily painful and traumatic. 

“The inquest has answered some of the questions that Karen and the family had and I know they are also hoping for an inquiry by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The matter has been referred to the HSE to investigate how Eileen could have been dropped from the hoist. Meanwhile, the family will now take some time to consider their options regarding possible legal action.”

Mrs Lawley had a history of medical problems and had suffered a left leg below-knee amputation in 1974 and a right above-knee amputation in 2004. She was cared for by her family and enjoyed a good quality of life despite her problems.

The family checked out the Woden Resources Centre on Vicarage Road in Wolverhampton, so that Eileen could be admitted for short periods for respite care.  

She went there in December 2006 and Karen noted that some of the staff were not using the hoist correctly; it had a special sling because Eileen had no legs. Karen, who is herself, a trained nurse, pointed this out to them and her comments were echoed by a district nurse. 

When Eileen returned to the Centre in February 2007 the family again had to show the staff how to use the sling.  Karen visited on 12 February and the staff were still using the equipment incorrectly.  This happened again on the 13th and 14th February at which point she insisted on seeing the duty manager and explaining her concerns.

On Sunday 18th February, Eileen was admitted to New Cross Hospital after staff at Woden Resources Centre dropped her out of the hoist. Her face was injured and she was in terrible pain.  Karen went with her to the x-ray department where they determined that Eileen’s lower femur had fractured, although Karen also expressed concern about her mum’s hip.  A doctor put Eileen’s leg in a cast and she was sent home, giving her an appointment for another x-ray the next day.

She returned to New Cross and her leg was x-rayed again and re-cast.   She was given some codeine and sent her home. Eileen found the pain unbearable and she became clammy and began vomiting.

Karen asked a GP to visit her mum after some weeks and he noticed that her leg was sticking out at an angle. He agreed with Karen there was something wrong and arranged for Eileen to go back to New Cross Hospital.  Eileen was x-rayed again on 19 March 2007 and the results showed that she had a shattered hip.

Eileen was admitted to New Cross Hospital and her cast was removed, revealing an abrasion on her stump which had become black and necrotic.  She also sustained a pressure sore to her sacrum and went on to develop MRSA, as well as suffering bowel problems, particularly constipation.

Eileen remained unwell and Karen was told she needed to find a nursing home for her mum and a place was secured at Aldergrove.  Despite Karen’s protests due to her concerns that her mum was too ill to leave hospital, Eileen was transferred to Aldergrove on Saturday 2 June 2007. Karen was concerned that she had not opened her bowels and her abdomen was very distended (the pathologist confirmed that the bowel was grossly distended and partly contributed to her death).

A tissue viability nurse examined Eileen’s stump three days later, only to find a plate-sized necrotic area with exposed bone and veins. New Cross Hospital had not advised Aldergrove properly about this on the discharge sheet nor had they advised about her bowel problems and the need for enemas.  A doctor was summoned to administer appropriate pain relief and advised Karen that her mother’s condition was terminal.  Eileen passed away on 12 June 2007.