Bournemouth Hospital Boss Says Sorry

19 November 2013, 12:46 | Updated: 19 November 2013, 12:54

The boss at a Bournemouth Hospital has said sorry over the death of a great-grandmother who made a desperate phone call to her family asking for help.

84 year old Dorothy Simpson said she couldn't breathe and staff weren't helping her.

When her son arrived 20 minutes later, she'd passed away alone, with the alarm system by her bed still beeping.

An investigation revealed failings in care given to Dorothy Simpson and Chief Executive Tony Spotswood has now written to her family to say sorry.

He told them: “It is clear from our investigation that you and your family had a very poor experience whilst your mother was under our care, and for this I am extremely sorry.”

And he said immediate action has been taken to ensure failings are not repeated.

Mrs Simpson, a great-grandmother who lived at Hengistbury Head, made a desperate phone call to her family to say she could not breathe and was getting no help from hospital staff.

When one of her sons arrived at Ward 3 less than 20 minutes later, she had passed away and was alone, with an alarm sounding.

In his letter, Mr Spotswood, admitted her son, Jim, “found her alone, with the observation machine alarming and sadly it appeared that your mother had very recently passed away”.

A high-level inquiry has since been carried out which told the family:

Your mother should not have been left on her own at any stage. She was on her own when James (Jim) came in. “This is unacceptable and again I am very sorry for this.” 

There was clearly a breakdown in communication. The family should have been asked to come in earlier to assist in reassuring her and encouraging her to wear the (oxygen) mask.

The frequency of observations was not recorded on the chart. 

A delay in obtaining antibiotics in liquid form. 

There had been last minute changes in staffing.

Staffing numbers were in accordance with Royal College of Nursing guidelines, apart from the half hour between shifts. A request for support from the Medical Directorate was made but unfortunately no other wards were able to help.

Mr Spotswood said there has since been a change in leadership on Ward 3 and a “very experienced” ward sister has since been recruited.

An action plan has been devised to address communication and attitudes of staff, as well as extra training and an electronic system is also being introduced to allow patients’ observations to be recorded centrally.

Mrs Simpson suffered from end stage lung disease and her family had been told she was unlikely to survive more than a few months.

Mr Spotswood said staff encouraged her to wear an oxygen mask less than an hour before she died on Saturday, July 27, but she refused to do so. 

Back in July the Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Paula Shrobbrook said:

'We express our sincere condolences to Mrs Simpson's family and are sorry they have had cause to complain to you. We are investigating this case, are in contact with the family and are working closely with them to address their concerns.'