"Neglectful end of life care at Royal Blackburn Hospital"

About: Royal Blackburn Hospital / Older people's healthcare

(as a carer),

You will have to excuse me I am quite emotional on this subject, and also speaking to you in sharing my ordeal.

I just want to tell you a little about my husband, and the treatment he got in this hospital.

My husband was diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's and was unable to communicate with people; really he was in a world of his own. I looked after my husband for 8 years. I loved him, cared for him, and looked after all of his everyday needs.

Yes, I got some help after some time, through going through meetings and social services, Age Concern and Citizens Advice. I was able to get free vouchers to help me to get a break.

At first I got one hour for 3 days each week, which I was grateful for. However, no sooner had I got out, I was heading back- it was all lock watching, which was quite stressful.

Some time later on, I received more vouchers of which I then got 3 hours per day, 3 days per week- which was much better. I was then told I could get a Saturday morning, which was lovely- but my vouchers were stopped! I was told I had to start paying for care.

My husband used to like to walk. Yet as his condition worsened the walks got shorter and slower, but he was with me and that was all he wanted.

We had been married over 50 years and he was always a lovely happy person. My husband’s condition deteriorated and he had to be catheterised.

In January, he went off his feet. The Doctor was called and from experience as soon as they see a catheter- it is always (an infection) before the urine is even tested. The doctor checked his chest and prescribed antibiotics. Then she said we don’t sent urine infections to hospital. But during the night he got worse, and by morning an ambulance had been called.

We travelled to Blackburn Royal and on arrival I was informed that my husband had a touch of pneumonia and not a urine infection. At this point, he was admitted to B4 ward. I noticed how well cared for he was on this ward, I visited everyday, sometimes at lunch to help feed him.

I always looked and read the notes at the end of his bed to see what drinks or food he had consumed. Also to see if he was being turned regularly and given personal care.

There was a young student nurse on this ward who took the time to talk to my husband, and just touch his hand, and his face would light up. He was no longer able to walk so I could no longer look after him much to my sadness.

It was arranged that a nursing home in Burnley was going to undertake an assessment of my husband’s needs, and if he would be accepted for residence at the home in Burnley. To my shock and surprise, he was taken by stretcher to this home and admitted at 9.30 at night. He had not been assessed and the staff were also surprised on his arrival at their home.

He was at the home for 6 days then sent back to Blackburn Royal. Then he was on the admission ward until a bed could be found on the medical ward. Later that afternoon he was taken to D3 Ward.

I went to visit my husband, and the Admission Ward had not sent any of his clothes and belongings up to the ward, so I went down myself to get them, I was surprised to see a man already in the bed but thankfully he hadn't gone in the locker.

It was no wonder I was getting stressed and upset, at this stage on my arrival back on D3 ward my husband was put on a 6 bed ward, put in the far corner, curtains around him and the door closed.

He was in someone else’s pyjamas, unshaven, and had a terrible mouth. He had his own teeth, but his lips were stuck to his teeth, and his tongue was red and sore and badly cracked. At this stage I was horrified! I asked for mouth sponges and I cleaned his mouth the best I could, but it needed doing more often.

A couple of days later, I went to see my husband at 2.00 pm. I noticed the drip he was attached to had been leaking. His bed and pyjamas were soaking wet, along with the sheet of which had now gone very cold. The fluid only comes out a ‘drip at a time’- how long had he been wet and in this state?

The machine was also bleeping lots but with the ward door closed it couldn't be heard.

Immediately I called the nurse she replied “the doctor needs to put it back in” then another nurse came in to the turn the bleeping machine off. I then said again “My husband was very wet and cold.”

Whilst I waited thinking the staff might be coming straight back to change the bed, I realised he had not been shaved again. So I asked the visitor in the next bed if she would mind me making a noise with the electric razor. I shaved him and whilst still waiting I cleaned his mouth again. I rolled the top sheet up a little to take away some of the wetness from the top of his body- whilst still waiting!

It was now 1 ¼ hours since telling the nurse about the drip leakage. I looked at his wrist band and noticed it was in someone else’s name. I was so disgusted at seeing this I just broke down, and possibly shouted as well.

I must have because nurses seemed to be all around me and must have heard me in such a stressful state- even with the door closed. I was so mad and angry, but to put the finishing touches to it- the nurse in her way dismissed it say “we don’t go off that, we go off the notes”. I responded telling her that it was load of rubbish, and it was very important. I said if he had died he would have gone to the Mortuary as this other person, because the notes would have stayed on the ward.

Looking up at the bed head, they had spelt our name wrong, and the nurse replied it was her scrawl, but that was never put right. Now things were moving. After my tears- a student nurse came to take the drip down, she had gloves on so I realised she couldn't feel the wet sheets, but by now you could see a water mark drying on the sheet.

The nurse started to cover up my husband with rolled up sheet. I responded by saying “it’s like that because it’s wet”, she responded by saying “oh yes” then she just went away- maybe it’s not her job?

I had to leave at 3.50 pm to catch my bus that was almost 2 hours since being told. It could have been another 2 hours after I left. Nobody could be bothered.

The ward where he was, in all honesty, my feelings are- that he was put in a far corner to die!

My husband was quiet and needs not a lot. He has his drip up. I am sure he was left to himself. He was never shaved, never washed and never had his hair combed. And I know for a fact his pyjamas were not changed because I had marked under the collar. He must have been so uncomfortable.

The doctor then rang me at home and I knew he was very poorly, and with my consent the drip was taken down. At this stage I was told he would be made comfortable and die in his sleep. The day after, he was sick bringing up yellow bile. I went to inform the nurse and she came right away.

I had to assist her to move him onto his side. She then wiped his face and left. One hour later I had to go again and find a nurse. I said “I know my husband is dying, but he does need changing from all this sick!” 2 nurses came. They never spoke, never sponged him down. They just put a gown over the top of him instead of his pyjamas. Maybe this was easier for them!

The next day my husband died under your care. Did I just say care? There must be another word for it. I know exactly what it is. It’s neglect.

It would have taken so little for someone just to sit in a moment with the dying, just to say a few words, just to touch their hand, and give them a little reassurance that you care.

You talk about ‘end of life care’. In my eyes, a dying person should always look neat, clean and comfortable, which then in turn will give comfort and acceptance to family and relatives in their final moments. I didn’t get that, maybe this is why I cannot get this matter out of my head.

I hope this story has made some of you emotional as it has me and maybe some of you act- as it is factual. I just hope and pray I never have to be a patient in this hospital after this experience.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Sharon Walkden, Engagement Officer, NHS East Lancashire

Dear Carer

Thank you for taking the time and energy to write about yours and your husband's experience and share your concerns.

I am so sorry to hear about the sequence of events that followed your husband's admission to the nursing home.

In order for your experience to be looked into, acted upon and learnt from, please could you contact East Lancashire Hospitals Trust? The hospital is aware of your posting on Patient Opinion, and with a little more information from you the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) there will be able to act on your behalf and share the concerns raised with the relevant Wards and staff to investigate.

PALS can be contacted by telephone: 0800 587 2586 or by e-mail: PALS@elht.nhs.uk. The office hours are Monday - Friday 8.30am-4.30pm but if the phone is not answered, please leave a message and PALS will respond to you at the earliest opportunity.

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