Why did my mum die in hospital?

A grieving daughter has accused Wigan Infirmary of neglect after her mother died following weeks of what she claims was poor treatment.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 9:00 am
Hilde Prescott

Helen Prescott says her mum Hilde was frequently denied food and water due to equipment not working properly and was left lying in a position which meant she could not breathe properly.

Mrs Prescott, 88, was admitted to hospital as a precaution on April 9 after becoming drowsy and unresponsive and a GP wanted to rule out that she had not suffered a stroke.

But her condition badly deteriorated during the several weeks in the care of Salford Royal Hospital and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust and her death on April 28 was put down to a combination of heart and kidney problems, bronchopneumonia and a minor stroke.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Helen Prescott

Ms Prescott says she is mystified how her mother’s condition went downhill so badly as the Ashton pensioner had previously been in excellent health and is concerned some of the problems she developed in the run-up to her death were actually caused by WWL’s poor care.

Ms Prescott, 60, said: “For the entire duration of her stay they said she couldn’t swallow and would choke but that often meant they didn’t give her water or food.

“She became increasingly distressed and was crying all the time for water. She was in anguish for a number of nights and kept the whole bay awake crying and pleading.

“One day on the ward the woman in the next bed asked me if I realised my mum had received no fluids all day. Everybody else had fluids so clearly they had gone round and done that side of things, but they seemed to have missed my mum out.

Helen Prescott

“They then used a cannula but on a few occasions it wasn’t fixed right so the fluid just ran out on the bed. When that happened it was just left, nobody did anything.

“They also tried to place a tube which would give food, fluids and medication through the nose but, apart from a couple of hours, it was never even used.

“It’s hardly surprising she had kidney failure as they gave her no water or fluids or food over a three-week period. I feel the hospital caused it with their terrible and inappropriate treatment.”

Ms Prescott said her mum was in good health until she went into hospital and had even been planning a holiday in Italy at the end of May.

After finding her struggling to respond to her on the Saturday morning she called the emergency services but neither the on-duty GP nor the paramedics who attended seemed unduly concerned.

However, the doctor said she should go into hospital to have blood tests done and to be checked over to ensure she had not had a small stroke.

After initially being seen in Wigan, she spent several days at Salford Royal before being transferred back to the borough where she spent the final weeks of her life on Billinge and Winstanley wards.

Ms Prescott says the care she experienced there fell far below the standards she was expecting and her many attempts to raise the issues with staff did not lead to improvements.

She said: “My mum had quite a curved spine so she didn’t really lie down, but she spent the entire time in hospital lying down. She would ask to be put in the chair but they didn’t do it. On Winstanley ward they put her on a ventilator and said she had issues breathing, but it never seemed laboured to me and the bigger problem was that they put her in a position that was unnatural for her.

“I was complaining all the time but I’ve been told since I should have gone higher up.

“Doctors also referred to her as incontinent when they had given her a catheter for their convenience. I actually corrected him the second time.

“They just seemed to see her as a doddery old dear who didn’t really know what she was about.”

Following Mrs Prescott’s death her daughter had a meeting with WWL at which she says a doctor admitted the care was not properly managed. Ms Prescott says she has since got in touch with other people bringing cases against WWL and is now considering a public campaign to drive up hospital standards.

She said: “I thought my mum was very badly treated. In retrospect I wish I had just ignored the doctors and given her fluids when she was desperate for them.

“There was no way my mum was a terminal patient. In my opinion they followed an end-of-life process, which is just ridiculous.

“It makes you wonder now other people are telling me they’ve had similar experiences. A lot of people have issues which are not being dealt with, and I think they need to sort themselves out.”

A WWL spokesman said: “The Trust is unable to comment publicly about individual patients as we are bound by patient confidentiality. The Trust listens to all comments and concerns expressed by patients and their relatives and aim to respond sympathetically and constructively.

“The Trust has a robust complaints procedure and welcomes comments about the service we offer to our patients so that we can continue to further improve the care we provide.

“We have received Mrs Prescott’s complaint and are currently in the process of investigating it thoroughly so that we can reply fully to Mrs Prescott’s concerns and take any necessary remedial action. We have already been in contact directly with Mrs Prescott in relation to her concerns and we will continue to keep her updated as to our investigation.”