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String Of Care Failures Lead To Elderly Woman’s Death

Devastated Family Call For Apology From NHS Trust


Relatives of an elderly Essex woman who died from serious head injuries sustained in hospital after being repeatedly left unsupervised are calling for the NHS Trust involved to apologise for the failings which led to her death and provide reassurances that lessons have been learnt.

The family of Peggy McGinn, 87, from Chelmsford, say that despite specialists advising that she should be carefully monitored while receiving psychiatric treatment under the care of the Trust, the grandmother was left on her own on a number of occasions, suffering a series of painful falls with the last one proving fatal.

Her family, who instructed law firm Irwin Mitchell to help them establish what happened following her death in January 2010, have settled their case against the North Essex Partnership NHS Trust, but are now demanding answers and assurances that the organisation has improved procedures in an effort to ensure nobody else suffers in the same manner.

And that call was reinforced by the family’s lawyer, Laura Barlow, who said they had been devastated by the death of a much-loved mother and grandmother, and that they are utterly determined to know measures have been put in place to prevent similar problems in the future.

Mrs McGinn, who was suffering from mental health problems following a change in blood pressure medication, fell after being left unsupervised on January 14th 2010 and began to suffer severe nosebleeds and vomiting. A scan revealed that the elderly mother-of-two had a bleed on the brain and, despite emergency surgery at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, she died as a result of her head injuries.

An inquest is yet to be held into Mrs McGinn’s death and the Trust have not admitted liability over her case. However, Trust bosses have paid £15,000 to her family for the appalling care she endured.

Laura Barlow, from Irwin Mitchell’s London office said: “This terrible case has highlighted disturbing failings which cannot be allowed to be repeated.  Mrs McGinn’s death was a preventable incident which would not have occurred if the necessary safety measures had been in place.

“The decision of the Trust to settle the claim prior to the inquest demonstrates their acknowledgment of serious problems, and the family are now keen for the organisation to offer an apology.

“We also want the findings of any investigations carried out into the case to be shared with NHS Trusts across the country so that lessons can be learnt and future suffering prevented.”

Mrs McGinn, a former housewife and Second World War land army medal holder, was originally admitted to hospital following problems with new blood pressure medication prescribed at Broomfield hospital in September 2009. Upon her return home her behaviour became erratic. 

Her son, Barry, 60, explains: “Mum was very carefree and independent up until that point, but following her discharge with the new medication she became unwell and was admitted to hospital.

“All of the family thought this would be the best thing for her, but if we had known what was going to happen we would have felt very differently.”

Throughout her stay, the family witnessed a general lack of care towards Mrs McGinn’s safety.  She suffered bruising to her face, chest and arms after a series of falls. However, while the family raised concerns over the level of observation she was under, nothing changed.

Barry recalls: “We were initially very worried when we saw mum with injuries in hospital. However, we were somewhat reassured when it was acknowledged that she needed ongoing monitoring.”

Mrs McGinn was transferred to The Ruby Ward at the Crystal Centre at the end of November 2009. However, she continued to fall and suffered injuries including bruising, bleeding from the head and a dislocated shoulder.

While records state she fell eight times between October and January, the family think that the problems were worse than Mrs McGinn’s medical notes suggested.

“The staff acknowledged a number of falls, but we regularly saw her with black eyes and bruising when there was no record of an incident,” Barry outlines.

“We would always share our concerns with staff but we often felt that they were falling on deaf ears. It was heartbreaking to see our mother so frail when she had so recently been independent.”

Peggy suffered nosebleeds and vomiting after her last recorded fall at the Crystal Centre on January 14th 2010.   A CT scan revealed bleeding on the brain and she was transferred to Queen’s Hospital in Romford for surgery. Days after being taken off life support following the operation, she died.

Barry continues: “We were devastated when mum passed away, but the grief soon turned to anger because she had died as a result of yet another fall.

“We couldn’t understand why she wasn’t being monitored regularly and how this could have been allowed to happen again, so we decided to seek advice about how we could get answers and hold the Trust to account.”

An offer of £15,000 for settlement was made to the Trust in December 2010, which was then accepted in the following month. No date has yet been set for the inquest into the cause of Peggy’s death.

Barry concludes: “Whilst we know that nothing will bring mum back, we are hoping that no one else will suffer the way she did.  We hope that lessons can be learnt that will ensure that measures are put in place to prevent these types of incidents happening to other patients.  In circumstances where an incident does occur, we hope that families are given full and honest information.

Laura Barlow adds: “It is unacceptable for a patient and their loved ones to have to suffer the double blow of care problems and a failure to record incidents properly, but this is what the McGinns have faced.

“We would urge the trust to provide the McGinn family with the apology they deserve, and information about what systems are in place to prevent this situation being repeated.  Only then will the family be able to move on with their lives.”