Betty, 85, could have lived with proper care, says coroner

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A FRAIL pensioner who died after being left without proper care for two weeks at a short-staffed hospital unit could have lived is she was treated properly, an inquest has found.

Betty Marshall, 85, died of sepsis caused by an infected hip wound which was left untreated during a two-week stay at Monument House, a Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust unit in Pontefract.

Mrs Marshall, of Batley Road, Kirkhamgate, had been transferred to the unit from Pinderfields Hospital following surgery for a hip fracture.

An inquest heard her operation on December 18, 2010, went well, and there was no cause for concern.

But staff at Monument House, where she was transferred on December 29 to recover from the surgery, carried out no assessment or treatment of the surgical wound during a 15-day period and it became infected.

The wound burst on January 14, and she was sent back to F-ward at Pinderfields, where she was too ill to have treatment to save her. Mrs Marshall died on January 22, 2011.

Staff at Pinderfields were “horrified” at her condition.

She was frail and her night dress was soaked with liquid from the open wound.

Along with the infected wound, she was dehydrated, had a pressure sore and her mouth was so dry she could not open it.

None of these conditions, which would have been present for several days, were identified and treated at Monument House.

Recording a narrative verdict, deputy assistant coroner Mary Burke said: “It is likely that if Mrs Marshall had received full care and support prior to her re-admission to Pinderfields Hospital on January 14, 2011, she would have survived.”

The hearing was also told Mrs Marshall had blood tests on December 20, before she went to Monument House, which revealed her renal function had deteriorated.

But no review of the test results was carried out and no treatment provided.

Monument House was busy and short-staffed after being hit by two outbreaks of norovirus.

A nurse was crying down the phone to a senior colleague saying they could not cope. Another described the crisis-hit unit as “an absolute nightmare”.

Even before the outbreak, the unit had a “huge staffing problem” and a lack of leadership and equipment.

Miss Burke said there was a period of several months when patients were at risk.

Helen Thomson, interim chief nurse at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, said: “I would like to extend my sincere sympathies to Mrs Marshall’s family.

“We carried out a thorough review at the time and we fully recognised that aspects of care fell below the standard that would be expected. On behalf of the trust, I would like to sincerely apologise.

“We have put significant improvements in place at Monument House over recent years. We will also take any further areas of learning from the inquest and take further action as appropriate.”