Police to look into ‘unlawful killing’

Angela Johnson, from Hindley Green, with a picture of her mother
Angela Johnson, from Hindley Green, with a picture of her mother
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POLICE are looking into whether a Wigan OAP was unlawfully killed after family complained about the standards of her hospital care.

Angela Johnson has lodged an allegation to Cheshire Police about the conduct of both Warrington Hospital and Hollins Park mental health unit after her elderly mum Alice died while in their care.

Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson

She claims that the 85-year-old, who lived at The Oaks care home in Hindley Green, was admitted to Hollins Park in Warrington on April 2 last year as it was suspected she had early onset dementia.

But while there, her health deteriorated as she became dehydrated and she was put into an induced coma and the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway.

Alice was transferred to Warrington General Hospital on June 12 as both Wigan and Leigh Infirmaries were full. The mother-of-one died on June 29 – less than a month before the deadline set by ministers for the NHS to cease using the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP).

Angela now believes Hollins Park started the programme which Warrington Hospital subsequently carried on.

My mum went to Hollins Park for a mental health assessment and urine infection. She showed no signs of physical illness while she was there and then within two weeks she deteriorated and doctors told me she was ill and dying

Angela Johnson

The pathway was originally introduced to ensure dignified and pain-free dying, but it was scrapped last year after an independent inquiry found it had led to cases of “uncaring, rushed and ignorant” treatment of the most vulnerable patients.

Warrington Hospital admitted to using the LCP, while Hollins Park denied applying it.

Angela, 53, said: “My mum went to Hollins Park for a mental health assessment and urine infection. She showed no signs of physical illness while she was there and then within two weeks she deteriorated and doctors told me she was ill and dying.

“She was dehydrated but Hollins Park would not put her on a drip. Doctors at Warrington said if they gave her water it would kill her and she would get pneumonia. She could not speak and her throat was blocked because she was dehydrated but doctors passed it off as end stage dementia.

“I was told she was in a coma because she was so ill and had incurable illness, but I now believe this was part of the Liverpool Care Pathway.

“I am really upset that Hollins Park have denied using the pathway as it makes me out to be a liar.

“I was upset about my mother’s health and I trusted the doctors. I am a single parent with a severely handicapped son and visited every day. I felt taken for advantage as I was so vulnerable on my own with no other visitors.”

Angela, who also lives in Hindley Green, has lodged her complaint with both hospitals, The Patient Association, Quality Care Commission and the police.

A spokesman for Cheshire Constabulary said they are looking at medical documents to determine whether there are criminal grounds but at present this does not constitute a police investigation.

Officers are also looking into the death of another patient, Nellie Smart, 93, of Warrington, as her family allege she also died as a result of the LCP programme.

Both files were opened in December and as yet, all parties involved are yet to hear an update about whether there will be a criminal investigation.

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: “Cheshire Constabulary was contacted separately by the relatives of Alice Johnson and Margaret Smart, both expressing concerns around the circumstances of their mothers’ deaths.

“Officers have spoken with both families, and been provided with medical and care records relating to their care in the time preceding death.

“Cheshire Police continue the process of examining the documents passed to them to determine whether there are any grounds for criminal investigation. This does not constitute a police investigation.”

A spokeswoman for 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust, on behalf of Hollins Park, denied using the Liverpool Care Pathway and could not comment on how she died as she was not in their care at the time.

She added: “The complaint investigation at our trust found that there is no evidence within Mrs Johnson’s records to suggest she was on the Liverpool Care Pathway whilst in our care.

“The Trust has robustly investigated Ms Johnson’s complaints in line with the trust’s policies and procedures and has cooperated fully with the multi-agency complaint investigation.”

A spokesman for Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We work hard to support patients with the best possible care at all stages of their illness.

“In keeping with most other hospitals at time of Mrs Johnson’s death we were using the Liverpool Care Pathway.

“It is important to note that in our hospitals we had, and continue to have, an extremely strong programme of training and education to ensure that patients are supported with the best care possible based around their personal needs at the natural end of life. This is a principle we always work to at what can be a very difficult time.

“We are aware of a complaint made by Mrs Johnson’s daughter and have cooperated as the police continue the process of examining the documents passed to them to determine whether there are any grounds for investigation.

“We have reviewed the notes in this case ourselves which demonstrate documented conversations taken with the family about care options and use of the care pathway and we are confident that all the right steps have been followed.”