Should I continue with a complaint about my mother's treatment that could have led to her death?

(2 Posts)
NulliusInBlurba Sun 10-Feb-13 17:38:23

This is a long one <deep breath>

My mother died last August - we're obviously still going through the standard grieving process.

The whole thing is compounded by the circumstances surrounding her death. While she was still in hospital we made a complaint to the responsible health board about the circumstances that led to her emergency admission. Essentially, after a severe fall, as a 76 years old living alone and with advanced heart insufficiency, a weekend call-out doctor was called by the emergency alarm team (who had rescued her at home) and told to call back as a matter of urgency. It took him 4 hours to call back, and then on the phone he laughed at my mum's condition (she was insistent that he laughed, and I believe her) and told her to get down to the surgery the following morning. She was so ill that the following morning she actually called an ambulance, was stretchered out to hospital, landed in intensive care with a serious and irreversable heart infection which led to organ failure, nearly died right then and just about pulled through. It was while 'recovering' in hospital that we made the first complaint.

We made it clear in the complaint that we were absolutely not interested in suing the authority, and simply wanted a personal apology from the doctor for his behaviour and an assurance that others would not suffer in this way.

Eight weeks after that, and three weeks after coming out of hospital, she died. Her treatment since making the first complaint was at times awful - in terms of medical decisions excellent, but some of the basic nursing care was disgustingly inadequate, both on the wards and her supposed medical care at home. It made the last weeks of her life a misery. Her dressings were changed so infrequently on ward that her nightgown and slippers were sodden wet for hours on end - we visitors tried to mop up, but we couldn't get hold of spare dressings and didn't know how to apply them. There are MANY other incidents I could list.

We have since had the 'findings' of the first inquiry - it was a shambles and included some appalling factual errors (like at one point assuring us that she had recovered and gone home, when she had in fact been transferred to a different hospital because her condition had deteriorated so far). We rejected it and asked for a higher level enquiry. This second enquiry admitted the doctor had made a mistake and should have dealt with my mother more urgently, the health board has apologised completely to us. It also apologises for all the factual errors and confusion.

So my questions:
Should I reject these second findings and pursue my demand for a personal apology from the doctor? I just want him to personally admit that he made a mistake and regrets it. I wouldn't normally demand this, but it hurts so much that he was so lacking in respect. Unfortunately there is no evidence on either side, as the telephone recording equipment was not working for that conversation hmm

Should I make a second complaint about all the dreadful treatment in the hospital itself, and her aftercare? It strikes me that much of it was not due to lack of funds, but to sheer lack of caring/culture of cruelty on the part of one ward and the ward sister, and then pure administrative chaos about who has responsibility for chronically ill discharged patients. In one respect I just want to let the whole thing go and get on with our lives, on the other hand it galls me that other vulnerable elderly patients might suffer like my mum did. If I can improve conditions for one other person it will be worth it.

By the way, we also encountered some superb nursing and care in the very same hospital, often from very junior staff. If I made that second complaint I would want to mention some wards and staff by name to commend them. After my mum died I took choccies round to the three wards where she had been well cared for, with a card of thanks.

Surely with all the publicity about mid-Staffs recently this is the time a health board might really take some notice of systematic failings. What would you do?

iliketea Sun 10-Feb-13 17:58:00

With respect to your complaint about the hospital - I would write to PALS, because this might help.change things on the ward.

With respect to the out of hours dr, if the health authority have avknowledged your complaint and addressed it; the chance of.you getting a personal apology is.next to none, I would think. The health authority is answering.the complaint on behalf of the staff member concerned. And whether he laughed at your mother or not is one word against another - for him to give a personal apology is admitting that he laughed (that and it is.unlikely that local policy would allow him to write an apology as you have had a response your complaint).

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now