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Can I sue the hospital?(29 Posts)
My grandmother fell out of her chair a week ago (Monday). She didn't hurt herself but her doctor advised I phone an ambulance because she was confused. She had been diagnosed with a urine infection a few days before and was suffering delerium (confusion, sleepiness and hallucinations). She also suffers from vascular dementia. She was taken to a&e and examined and kept in for observation. I told them that she gets very confused and tries to get up and about when she shouldn't (she was very unstable on her feet).
I got a call Tuesday morning letting me know that my nana would be discharged that day as her urine infection could be treated at home. I went to pick her up a few hours later and was told she had fallen again and broken her wrist in 2 places! They were keeping her in.
She was in a single room down the hall from the nurses station. The next day I went in they had her sitting up in a chair unsupervised. She wasn't supposed to be moving unaided but they had left the call button on the other side of the room with no way for get to get to it (so she couldn't ask for help to the toilet.) Again I told the nurses that she forgets she's not capable of getting up alone and will try to move about. When I was in visiting she was trying to get up and chase a mouse she was hallucinating!
Next day I came in she had been moved to a room beside the nurses station because they wanted to keep a closer eye on her. When I came back at night visiting I was told she had fallen again (I think she's pulled a muscle/bruised her ribs this time).
At this point she was given an auxillary to watch over her one on one and has had constant supervision.
My family is very angry about the fact that she was left in a room alone and was able to wander about (and fall twice) when we had warned the staff multiple times about her confusion/dementia and tendency to get up if not supervised.
My nana's going to need a lot of extra help when she gets out of hospital. She's very restricted with what she can do with her cast. Usually she's able to get around the house and do bits of house work (the confusion,etc isn't constant - just happens when she has infection. ) but I think she's going to find it difficult using her zimmer etc.
My mother's getting up in arms about suing the hospital for negligence. Is this possible? Was it negligent to leave her in a room alone with no supervision given the circumstance?
Why don't you make a formal complaint instead of trying litigation. What do you hope to achieve? Do you want money?
You need to make a complaint before you even think about litigation. No solicitor would take this on based on what you have told us, it costs a fortune in the first place. Speak to the person in charge of the ward in the first instance, contact PALS and escalate the complaint if necessary. Hope your grandmother is OK.
Having been in hospital with patients who keep trying to get out of bed, it's very hard to have a member of staff with them all the time.
No way can you sue without going through the complaints procedure first - speak to the PAL team at the hospital.
Hope your grandmother is doing OK now, it is amazing the difference a urine infection can make - it happened to a relative of ours too (not the falls though).
Actually I am a solicitor and I disagree that no solicitor would take this case on. Your GM has fallen and sustained serious injuries. As your grandmother has a history of falling and has vascular dementia, a falls risk assessment should have been undertaken. If she was left unattended it is likely that this either was not done or if it was done, was not followed.
I do agree that you should make a complaint first. I would get in touch with PALS and see what response you get. If you are not satisfied with their response (to be honest you likely won't be in my experience) get in touch with AVMA. They are a great charity who deal with victims of medical accidents. They can direct you to a suitably qualified solicitor.
I'm shocked at some of the responses on here! I don't think the OP is thinking about the money. I think that she, quite rightly, is concerned that her GM has been seriously injured and now will need additional care at home!
The reason this sort of thing happens is because the NHS doesn't have enough funding for staff. I totally agree that it shouldn't have happened but all you achieve by suing the hospital is taking yet more money away from an already overstretched system which will likely have a similar impact on someone else's relative. I would definitely make a complaint but I wouldn't sue.
^^ from a solicitor
Obviously your gm should have had an auxiliary from the start, and seeing as the NHS, indeed the whole country is sloshing in spare money it's incomprehensible that she didn't have 1:1 support immediately. Why don't you put the staff through the stress of suing and enjoy the money?
The first response was to sue rather than follow the complaints procedure and I find that pretty shocking. litigation is an expensive, complicated and long process. She won't get a payout next week.
scarlet I've just seen that your mum has mentioned suing, she'll be more frightened and distressed on her mums behalf and I guess she's feeling the burden of aftercare. Support her, but guide her towards not suing. Sorry for my snippy earlier replies.
Why don't you make a formal complaint instead of trying litigation. What do you hope to achieve? Do you want money?
What do you suggest the nurses should have done instead??
Howe would you have felt if they had say restrained your GM so she couldn't leave her bed???
IminaPickle. Did you mean to be so rude? The OP is worried about her grandmother. Do you really find it so hard to comprehend that and have a little empathy? I am a great proponent of the NHS, my husband is a doctor, but I think you have been very rude to the OP who is clearly upset.
Sorry crossed posts. Can see that you have apologised to the OP.
Yes you absolutely need to make a complaint about this. Having been a nurse I know that falls can occur, however when staff have been forewarned then it makes sense to ask what their planning was to minimise the risks of your grandmother falling.
Hospitals seem much less well staffed these days which is a massive problem when dealing with an elderly confused and disorientated person.
Was there a better ward your grandmother could have been in which specialised in care of those with dementia for example. If so might she not have been better and more safely cared for there?
I think there are lots of issues here which the hospital need to address. I know short staffing is chronic in the NHS but unless as a public we raise the problems this causes then nothing has any hope of changing.
Raise your concerns with the ward through PALs. If you want to sue someone may I suggest Jezza *unt and the succession of governments that are driving the NHS to its knees. Your nana was likely one of up to 30 elderly / sick people all with varying needs of the nurses caring for them. The poster who mentioned a falls assessment, as a nurse I know FULL WELL which of my patients need help to eat / walk / toilet / wash / turn in bed. Unfortunately when I'm outnumbered 6:1 I am unable to meet all these needs at once. If I am sat with OPs granny , Joe Bloggs granny is sat in urine and Jane Does granny has had her lunch taken away uneaten.
These are all normal activities of daily living BEFORE I give out any meds / escort patients to and from scans / provide comfort to the distressed or dying and complete all my paperwork so I don't get sued and lose my registration to practice.
The problems in the NHS would go a long way to be involved if there were more investment at ward level (not managers or rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic) we could use the money we save when people get better quicker and we don't get sued because things like this don't happen.
I wish your nan a speedy recovery OP. I know myself and other nurses are upset we can not provide the care we came into (and stay) in nursing to give as the numbers just aren't there.
Phew that was long. Sorry.
First of all thank you for all your replies. Second - to everyone who left rude comens about me being greedy and out for money kindly keep your opinions to yourself - you couldn't be more wrong! As I said, it my mother who's freaking our about this and it's not about getting money - she's reacting out of anger and fear not greed. Heaven forbid she be upset that her elderly mother had multiple falls and hurt herself in a place she was sent to get help and was supposed to be safe.
I fully understand the stress nurses are under and, having spent a lot of time at hospitals, know how much work they have to do. However, like I said, we had mentioned several times about her risk of falling and after the first fall in which she broke her wrist I think she should have been better supervised. In fact a little while before the second fall I had spoken to the staff nurse and let her know that my nana was confused, adjitated and kept trying to get up and she said they would keep a close eye on her (when I can back an hour later I was told she had fallen again). Also, I don't think there's an excuse for leaving a patient sitting in a chair without access to the call button.
There are wards upstairs (the high risk fall ward) which are supervised at all times by at least one auxillary who is there to cut off possible accidents before they happen (eg stop a patient wandering about, notice if a patient is trying to get out of bed etc). The auxillary is literally not allowed to leave the room. My nana had to wait 5 days before she was put in one of these wards. She hasn't had a fall since she's been moved there, thank God.
On the Tuesday we were told they were waiting on physio assessing her to mobility to make sure it was safe for her to go home (this was before she broke her wrist) and this still hasn't happened.
I don't give a damn about money and neither does my mum. I think she just wants to punish the hospital for allowing her mother to come to harm. Her falling is especially worrying as her cardiologist was just about to start her on a strong blood thinner (to prevent further strokes) which could have lead to a more serious injury because she hit her head on the way down when she broke her wrist and if she had started her blood thinners this could have caused a brain bleed.
I've never had to make a complaint about a hospital so I'm not really sure what the procedure is. What is PALS?
PALS is Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service - it's a way of getting your voice heard with the hospital.
Suing won't get any short term result. It's likely that extra funds were allocated to allow your GM extra supervision after her second fall, but the hospital can't do that for every patient who is at risk of falls. The majority of our patients are at risk of falls for one or a number of reasons. It does sound as though they should have made sure she could reach her bell, though.
Just because nurses are under pressure it doesn't mean any of us should accept substandard care, let alone an elderly lady with dementia who can't speak up for herself.
I have taken the call bell off people in the past, for example people who can't retain what it is for or risk getting entangled in / tripping over the cord. In cases like this I make sure to put my eyes on that patient every 15 minutes / nurse them in sight of the nurses station or replace the call button with a hand bell as people who can't retain how to use the buzzer can usually manage a bell. Was there any evidence these things were tried?
It's likely that extra funds were allocated to allow your GM extra supervision after her second fall, but the hospital can't do that for every patient who is at risk of falls
this is actually really shocking! such basic needs not met. it's negligent!
op sueing is probably not right in this case, but do complain to pals and hospital management.
Not sure about the legal action but Yes you do defiantly need to complain, as issues like this need to be highlighted - although in the trust where I work something like this would be investigated anyway by the hospital as a serious untoward incident - so don't think it will go unnoticed.
If they knew your gm had diagnosis of dementia, and was suffering from delirium and was already a high falls risk then she should have been placed on a one to one ( and staff provided to facilitate this in addition to the staff already on shift) she should most definitely not have been put in a side room down a corridor!
Nurses are really pushed and basically spend all shift chasing our tails resources stretched etc but it is up to the admitting nurse (and doctor) to identify risks of the patient being admitted and do there best to make sure precautions are put in place to reduce the risks.
Who was watching her when she had her original fall?
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