Calls for inquiry into Welsh NHS following woman's death


The death of an elderly patient has prompted calls for Welsh NHS mortality rates and care standards to be scrutinised.

Hospital Medical Complaints

Special measures

The leader of the Conservatives in Wales has asked for a review similar to that completed recently by Sir Bruce Keogh in England, following the Mid Staffordshire scandal. Since publication of the Keogh report 11 NHS trusts in England have been earmarked for 'special measures'.

However, following an apology by the trust board concerned, the Welsh assembly has insisted that an inquiry into the health board is unnecessary.

Elderly patient neglected

The elderly lady was admitted to 2 different hospitals on 3 separate occasions after August 2010, and died in November 2012.

On her first hospital admission, the woman's family lodged a complaint with the health board.

A relative called the situation "absolutely appalling". "Quite often I'd go in to visit her and I would find that she had been left 'nil by mouth' for several days until she was weak and wasn't able to lift a glass of water to her mouth, she was dehydrated," the family member said.

Another relative noted how the family attended the patient's bedside "until her tongue swelled up and cracked and her lips split open for want of hydration.

"She became delirious at first, then barely conscious, almost coma-like."

Unnecessary sedation

Once the family had reported their concerns to social services, Pova (Protection of Vulnerable Adults) proceedings were pursued and various allegations were proven. This led to the hospital admitting to unnecessarily sedating the patient while failing to administer prescribed medication.

The patient's leg, which had previously been amputated, needed special care which was not given. "When I complained that she was having unnecessary sedation, they said it was because she was screaming at night. When I asked why, [I was told] that they hadn't taken her leg off in the 2 weeks that she'd been there."

Similar issues

A post-mortem found she had succumbed to a heart attack and that no chronic disease had been found in her lungs. However, the family had been told by staff that they were stopping her medication as she was dying of pneumonia.

Calling for a Keogh-type inquiry, Welsh Tory leader Andrew Davies said death rates in some Welsh hospitals were "spiking at unacceptable levels.

"I believe we do need… to address the very real concerns in our hospitals so that we can have confidence that health boards, clinicians and families are having their concerns addressed and structures are put in place so we don't get some of the terrible stories that are emanating out of England."

"Absolutely tragic"

According to the Peter Tyndall, the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales, complaints about the Welsh NHS had risen by 30% in just 1 year.

The Royal College of Nursing in Wales said the family's story was "extremely distressing". Director Tina Donnelly said: "My response to this is that this has been an investigation and we need to know what went wrong - it's in the public interest. You cannot condone poor care."

The Welsh Assembly reasserted its commitment to reviewing the current complaints procedures and is looking into its system of healthcare inspection.

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