"The death of my mother"

About: Torbay Hospital / General surgery

(as a relative),

Death of my Mother at Torbay Hospital – in March 2015

I believe the decision made by members of the team at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust directly led to the death of my mother – please see below for chronology of events. My Mother’s death will not be put down to ‘just one of those things.

My life changed forever one day in  March 2015 at 3. 40pm as this was the day we lost our beloved Mother. I could talk endlessly of the pain, anger and grief my family have experienced as a direct result of our loss but the reason I am writing this letter is because nearly 12 months following her death we still have not received the answers we require from South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – I can assure you that her death is not going to be put down as ‘just one of those things’ I will receive justice for her and my Family. My Mother was a complicated, loving, funny and most loyal person I have met in my life – however painful this is for me I intend to get the justice she so richly deserves. We trusted Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and have been let down in the worst possible way. They are 100% responsible for my Mother’s death!

My mother was due to have a small operation in order to remove a cancerous tumour on her bowel which, which in the words of the Hospital was ‘routine and nothing to worry about’ - she was due to have her operation in mid February 2015. She had to endure the ‘hell’ (her words) of having to take Picolac in preparation for the operation, this was most unpleasant but we were more than aware that this was very necessary. When my parents arrived at the hospital with my Father they were informed that due to a lack of beds the operation had been cancelled – no further explanation offered. My mother was ‘gutted’, again her words. She had gone through the hell of having to take Picolac and mentally prepared herself for nothing! The operation was re-scheduled for around a week later, as a direct result of this delay her bowel had burst and she went into septic shock – she put up one hell of a fight but sadly died in March 2015 at 3. 40pm. The post mortem that followed stated that ‘the initial delay “may have contributed significantly” to her death”. My Mother’s inquest was heard in August 2015 – the Coroner delivered a narrative verdict’ – ‘The deceased suffered from rectal adenocarcinoma. She had a planned operation cancelled because there was no intensive care bed available for her anticipated recuperation. A week later she had a large bowel resection which discovered a perforation. Post operatively she developed faecal peritonitis, small bowel ischaemia, infarction which required further treatment. She developed a bilateral lower pneumonia and died ... in Torbay Hospital Torquay’.

I can remember the day in early January 2015 that my Mother contacted me in order to tell me that they had discovered cancerous cells in her bowel. Typical Mum, she was putting on a brave face for me, despite being a middle aged woman she still tries to protect me, my Father shouted in the background (Common practice for a telephone call with them both) – he said ‘it is curable , just a minor operation, nothing to worry about’. This did ease my concerns somewhat, I had heard of other people having a similar operation to my mothers and they were all fine – how wrong I was.

My mother’s operation was scheduled for mid February 2015, she was informed that ‘this relatively simple operation’ would take a few hours and she would need to spend up to 7 days in hospital following her operation. Due to her low blood pressure and lack of mobility she was informed that she would need to spend a night in the Critical Care Unit (CCU) in order for her progress to be monitored on a one to one basis. In preparation for this operation she took the prescribed medication of picolac in order to empty the amount of stool within her bowel. This is a most unpleasant procedure but Mum accepted it as a ‘necessary evil’ and something she needed to get out of the way in order to get on with her life.

As stated above, when she was admitted for her rescheduled operation she was extremely unwell, when my parents arrived at the hospital her consultant said ‘we need to crack on with this quickly’ – after the operation he informed us that he suspected that Mum’s bowel had burst and that she had gone into septic shock. When I think of how she carefully packed her bag, how my brother showed her how to use her precious ipad in hospital all for nothing – she never touched her bag – never even got the opportunity to open it!

We were originally informed that Mum’s original operation was cancelled due to a lack of beds, when she was in the Critical Care Unit there were at least two empty beds for the entire time, when I mentioned this to Torbay Hospital I was informed that the decision to cancel Mum’s operation was not just due to a lack of beds, a lack of staffing had been a factor too. We were advised that the decision was made by a team of people including the surgeons, Intensive Care Consultants, Intensive Care Senior Nursing staff, anaesthetists and the recovery team. I have asked for the minutes of the meeting when the decision was made to cancel Mum’s operation but was told that there were not any – to this day I do not know whether it was a lack of bed or staff that caused her operation to be cancelled.

I have asked the hospital whether a bed would have been found for Mum if she had presented as an emergency to which I was informed ‘if Mrs .. had presented as an emergency then circumstances would have been different and everything would have been done to deal with the admission on that basis’ – can I please ask you to consider how you would feel if you had heard this? A bed could have been found for my Mother, she would still be alive today if they had found this bed.

Can I please ask you to consider how you would feel if your own Mother had died in these circumstances, her death was avoidable and no one has been held to account. Surely Torbay Hospital would hold their own investigation into a matter of this seriousness, if they have we have not had any communication from them aside from the minutes of a meeting they had with myself and my Father on in April 2015.

My Mother was let down by Torbay Hospital, as a result of their actions my parents did not celebrate their 50th Wedding anniversary in October 2015 – she should be enjoying her life! My parents ran a successful business for over 40 years, they have paid into the NHS for their entire lives and where were they when she needed them?

I do have to add that I have little doubt that Torbay Hospital did all they could in order to save my mother, unfortunately the damage had already been done by the cancelled operation - the staff on the CCU were exceptional and I cannot thank them enough but unfortunately this was all too late.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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Response from PALS Dept, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Enquirer

We are very sorry to hear about the experience of your late mother, when she was a patient at Torbay Hospital and that the standard of her care fell below that which we strive to provide. Please accpet the trust's condolences for your sad loss.

We would like the opportunity to discuss with you your concerns and try our best to resolve it.

If you are happy to talk to us about this, please contact our Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS) so they can look into your situation in more detail.

A PALS Officer is available in person, Monday to Friday, between 10.00am and 2.00pm. You can contact them by calling 01803 655838 or on our 24 hour freephone number 0800 02 82 037. If you get through to the voicemail service please leave your contact details and you will receive a call back within two working days. PALS can also be contacted by Text Phone on 01803 654742, by FAX on 01803 617162, or via email to sdhc@nhs.net (your email will go direct to our PALS Service).

We look forward to hearing from you so that we can address the issues you have raised.

Kind regards

Patient Services


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