NHS Trust Admits Failures In Care Following Woman's Death
The husband of a policewoman who died after she developed sepsis following surgery to remove a bunion is speaking out on World Sepsis Day to help raise awareness of the disease and the importance of its early detection.
Mother-of-one Pamela Simmons, from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, underwent an operation to remove a bunion on 10 December, 2015, at Holme Valley Hospital. Following this, she began to feel unwell and her condition deteriorated.
Almost two weeks after her operation, while being treated at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, it was considered that Pamela was suffering from sepsis. Her condition now continued to worsen and on 27 December, Pamela passed away aged 47.
Now, after instructing specialist solicitors at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his wife’s care, the NHS Trust responsible, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, has admitted a breach of duty and admitted Pamela would have survived but for the substandard care.
Pamela’s husband Barrie Simmons, 59, is speaking out about his wife’s death to help raise awareness of the deadly disease that took her life.
Barrie, who was married to Pamela for eight years, remains in Holmfirth with Pamela’s daughter, Gemma Lynch, 22, said: “Pamela’s death devastated the whole family, and community. Nearly three years on from Pamela’s death, it is still hard to believe that she is no longer with us.
“As a policewoman, she was well-known in the community and was much loved and respected. She was always kind and polite to everyone and was happy to help whoever, however she could.
“She didn’t deserve what happened. That’s why I am speaking out on World Sepsis Day to help raise awareness of this cruel disease. It’s so important that its symptoms and signs are spotted quickly, to ensure those suffering are given the correct care as soon as is possible.”
The cause of death was noted as pneumonia on Pamela’s death certificate. However, after intervention from the doctor whose care Pamela was under in the ICU, Barrie was advised that this was not the case and Pamela had died as a result of multi-organ failure through sepsis.
Expert Opinion“The level of care that Pamela received fell way below what patients should expect to receive with devastating consequences.
“Pamela’s case is a tragic example of what can happen when undiagnosed infections are left untreated, highlighting the importance and need for a prompt diagnosis of sepsis so appropriate care and treatment can be administered as soon as possible.
“We work closely with UK Sepsis Trust to raise awareness of the condition and more must be done to educate our doctors so that the signs of sepsis are recognised earlier when the chances of survival are significantly greater.” Tracy Tai - Solicitor
World Sepsis Day aims to promise awareness of sepsis, which is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Sepsis leads to shock, multiple organ failure and, potentially, death especially if not recognised early and treated promptly.
Sepsis is caused by the way the body responds to bacteria or a virus, getting into the body. The infection may have started anywhere in a sufferer’s body, and may be localised or widespread. It can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites.
Dr Ron Daniels BEM, Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, comments: “Experiences like Pamela’s remind us of the devastating effects of sepsis.
“Every year in the UK 250,000 people are affected by sepsis, 44,000 of whom lose their lives to the condition. If diagnosed quickly, however, sepsis is easily treatable and we believe that earlier diagnosis and treatment across the UK would save at least 14,000 lives a year.
“Whenever there are signs of infection (and infection can be caused by anything from a small cut or insect bite to a chest infection or UTI) it’s crucial that members of the public seek medical attention urgently and ‘Just Ask: “Could it be sepsis?”.
“With every hour that passes before the right antibiotics are administered, risk of death increases. Better awareness could save thousands of lives and, together, we can change the way sepsis is handled in the UK.”
On 10 December, 2015, Pamela had an operation to remove a bunion on her left foot at Holme Valley Hospital and was discharged the same day. On 19 December, Pamela started to feel unwell and was suffering from headaches.
In the early hours of 21 December, Pamela collapsed on her way to the bathroom and remained restless after Barrie had helped her up and back into bed. During the afternoon, she started to complain of chest pains and breathlessness.
Barrie called the GP to report her symptoms which included chest pains, nausea, shortness of breath and being unable to feel her legs. He was advised him to call 999 and an ambulance was dispatched and paramedics then took the decision to transfer Pamela to the Accident and Emergency Department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
After admission, Pamela received treatment and medication and was admitted for management. Her admission note from Accident and Emergency stated that she had ‘three days history of URT infection (upper respiratory tract)’ and that it was to be ‘treated as sepsis.’
Pamela was examined that evening in hospital, had blood tests and a chest x-ray. Her notes stated that her discharge was discussed, but she stayed overnight. Barrie informed his legal team that this is because there was no one to collect her.
The following day Pamela conditions appeared to improved and she was discharged, on oral medication, as her temperature had decreased from 39.8C at 7am in the morning, to 36.4C or 36.5C at 5pm.
Her discharge note stated that she was admitted for upper respiratory tract infection and a three-day history of general malaise, headache and sore throat. She was treated with oral antibiotics.
On 23 December Barrie arranged a home visit from a GP as Pamela appeared increasingly unwell. The GP gave a diagnosis of possible sepsis and advised her to go back to hospital, and Pamela was then re-admitted to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
At this point, a working diagnosis of sepsis was considered. Despite this, the decision was made to continue the same oral antibiotics prescribed on discharge and continue intravenous infusion.
On Christmas Eve, Pamela was transferred to a different ward and it was noted that she had been admitted with a ‘diagnosis of viral respiratory tract infection’. Pamela was struggling to keep the oral medication down and she was changed on to intravenous antibiotics. She also had had episodes of fainting, she was dizzy when she stood and was nauseated.
Christmas Day saw Pamela’s condition deteriorate further and a chest x-ray showed shadowing on both lungs and she was seen by Critical Care Outreach and it was noted that she was showing signs of sepsis.
On Boxing Day, following review by the Critical Care Outreach team, Pamela was admitted to ICU. She was initially admitted to the post-operative area, as there were no beds in ICU, and she was put on a dialysis machine. At this point, Pamela was intubated and mechanically ventilated.
On 27 December, her condition deteriorated further and she went into cardiac arrest and passed away that afternoon despite attempts at resuscitation.
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