A grieving widower is trying to bring legal action against the hospital where he claims his wife was put on an end-of-life care pathway.
Joe Cronshaw, from Golborne, says staff at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust gave his wife Bridget palliative care despite enjoying an active, globe-trotting lifestyle just months previously.
Mr Cronshaw, of Gisburn Avenue, also claims do not resuscitate notices were wrongly placed on his wife’s file without the family agreeing and a thick, black substance in her throat when she died was not investigated.
Mrs Cronshaw, who was 78 when she died last October, was rushed to Salford Royal from Wigan Infirmary where she was being treated after experiencing difficulty swallowing.
Her family believe her health problems were caused by her difficulty eating and drinking affecting her diabetes but claim hospital staff brushed this consideration aside and concentrated on a problem with her kidneys.
She had been in Salford Royal just over a fortnight when her condition deteriorated and died on October 8.
Mr Cronshaw, 78, said: “A locum doctor came in and asked why my wife had do not resuscitate on her records. He told us somebody included it on September 12, which was the day she was admitted.
“When she arrived a nurse checked her chest, asked how old she was and then said the kindest thing to do would be to just let her go. The shock was so bad I had to get up quick.
“I told him not to come back and a nurse came over to see what the problem was. I told her and she said he shouldn’t have spoken like that.
“I think they had made their minds up. In the last few days of her life she was fed through a tube and had an oxygen mask but nobody would look down her throat to see why she wasn’t swallowing. To me there was no doubt about it, the intention was she wouldn’t survive.
“When we started seeing the specialists and it was all about her kidneys and whether she could accept dialysis at her age. We kept saying she wasn’t in hospital for her kidneys, the problem was that she wasn’t eating and couldn’t swallow.
“One nurse said his recommendation was to make her comfortable and allow her to die with dignity.
“They talked to her as though she was an old woman. She should never have got to that stage in the first place. If she had gone back to swallowing and back to her medication she would be travelling with me now.”
In the last 18 months of her life Mrs Cronshaw, who was known to family and friends as Violet, lived an extremely active lifestyle, travelling extensively in Europe with her husband visiting France, Belgium, Italy, Malta and Switzerland among other places.
Detailed notes of her stay in hospital compiled by her daughter Maria show the family’s numerous complaints about her treatment, which included her room containing dirty swabs and delays in getting the dieticians to see her despite the fact her swallowing issues meant she was not eating much.
Mr Cronshaw says items associated with the now-scrapped Liverpool Care Pathway, such as swabs and a bowl of water which allow nurses to dab patients’ mouths with water but do not let them swallow, were also used in his wife’s care.
However, he says it is the discovery he made on the day Mrs Cronshaw died that has made him determined to take the matter to court.
He said: “I leaned over her to pull the pipes out and it came up thick, black and treacly, it was like bitumen. The ward manager put her hands over her mouth when she saw it.
“I sent the photos to a mortuary worker and he said it was dead matter.”
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust says Mrs Cronshaw’s care was looked at following her death and expressed its condolences to her family.
Peter Murphy, director of nursing, quality and governance, said: “Although we are unable to comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality, we can confirm the Trust undertook a review of the concerns raised by the family regarding Mrs Cronshaw’s care, and our findings were shared directly with the family. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs Cronshaw’s family.”
Solicitors for the Cronshaw family are currently pursuing a claim for medical negligence against the hospital, but Mr Cronshaw says he is not satisfied with that.
He says he has attempted to pass files to Greater Manchester Police in order to begin possible criminal investigations and says he will not hesitate to get the Lord Chief Justice’s office involved if necessary.
He said: “Some of the things I saw in that hospital were absolutely appalling and in my opinion some of the staff should be in front of criminal judges.
“I have to steel myself to see those last photos of her.”