Health trust chief's apology for care failings after patient dies
PUBLISHED: 18:26 17 April 2018 | UPDATED: 18:26 17 April 2018
Archant © 2018
A health boss has apologised to the family of a woman who died after failings in care at a mental health unit.
The family of Denise Davies, from Oulton, near Lowestoft, have received an apology from Julie Cave, interim chief executive of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, and a substantial out of court settlement.
Mrs Davies died aged 45 in June 2013 after she had been cared for by the trust at its Carlton Court unit following a deterioration in her mental health.
She was then transferred to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston due to fears over the state of her physical health.
She had been said to be profoundly dehydrated.
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Mrs Davies, of mother of two and a former healthcare support worker, died at the hospital from a blood clot.
Her family then instructed specialist medical negligence lawyer Thomas Riis-Bristow at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the matter.
The legal team argued the trust had failed to carry out and repeat daily risk assessments to avoid the risk of deep vein thrombosis and malnutrition while she was at Carlton Court.
It was also said the trust accepted Mrs Davies should have been transferred earlier to the hospital for urgent intervention.
The out of court settlement will pay for a carer for Mrs Davies husband, Mark, aged 55 and a former HMP Blundeston prison officer. He was forced to retire role due to a degenerative spinal condition which left him paralysed.
Mr Davies said: “Our family has been ripped apart by Denise’s death.”
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He was sceptical if the trust was doing enough to implement changes following his wife’s death, was concerned about the number of unexpected deaths there and how it had been placed in special measures.
Mrs Cave said: “We are aware the standard of care provided to Denise fell below that which she was entitled to expect and which this trust strives to offer.
“For that, our trust offers its sincere apologies to the Davies family, and behalf of all the clinicians involved, we once again offer our condolences to them.”
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She confirmed handover processes between the trust and acute hospitals had been reviewed, as well as changes in the policies and procedures to record a patient’s nutritional status.
In a statement Mr Davies added: “Our family has been ripped apart by Denise’s death. I lost my best friend and Rachel and Ashley have lost their caring and loving mum.
“As if that was not hard enough to come to terms with, we had more than four years of fighting Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust until it finally admitted failings in the care it provided to Denise.
“We were told that changes had been made following her death. Changes may have been made but I’m sceptical as to whether enough is being done. The number of unexpected deaths continues to rise significantly and the Trust has been put in special measures for a second time. I feel that something needs to be done to stop the numbers of unexpected deaths increasing at the Trust year on year.
“Mental illness can affect anyone at any time and from any walk of life. I am speaking out to shine a light on what happened to Denise and I am calling on the government to ensure that significant investment is made into improving mental health services in the UK.
“This issue is not going to go away and can’t just be brushed under the carpet. People need to be more open about how they feel and help ensure there is awareness about depression and mental illness. Hopefully by speaking out about my case, there will be more exposure to this issue and that this will make the authorities realise how important it is to improve NHS mental health services.”
Mr Riis-Bristow, said: “Denise’s family has suffered unimaginable loss and a great deal of stress and anger for more than four years as they sought answers from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust regarding her death.
“Denise was tragically let down by the trust when she was at her most vulnerable, with devastating consequences. Sadly, her family now has to go on without Denise and the only positive they take from the conclusion of the legal case is that they have pursued the matter to the full extent that the law will allow.
“The trust was the first ever mental health trust placed into special measures by the Care Quality Commission in October 2014 as it was deemed to be providing an ‘Inadequate’ standard of care. Despite this request to improve, the Davies family were stunned to learn that the trust was placed into special measures for a second time in October 2017.
“While nothing can make up for Denise’s death, the trust’s admission and apology fully vindicates the family’s four year quest for answers. The family feels they have honoured Denise’s memory in legally establishing the trust failed her when she needed it most”.
“However, they are shocked that, despite the trust saying it has learned lessons from her death, the number of unexpected deaths at the trust has continued to rise. It is vital that this failing Trust urgently improves and puts measures in place to ensure other families have to suffer the heartache that Mark and his family have.”