10 November 2011
Leigh Day & Co have announced they are launching a group action on behalf of families and widows of patients allegedly subjected to “appalling and humiliating” treatment at Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital.
At least 10 families and widows of patients are taking the legal action, which is led by human rights lawyer Emma Jones in the Healthcare law team at Leigh Day & Co.
Ms Jones said: “A common theme with these cases is patients left dehydrated, food left out of their reach, not enough staff and the ones present not seeming to care, information given to staff from relatives seemed to go into a black hole.
“We will argue under the Human Rights Act that the standard of care breached the families’ human rights and we believe these cases are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more out there.”
The legal action comes as Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Alexandra as well as Kidderminster and Worcester hospitals, was recently highlighted for having higher-than-expected death rates.
The trust was also one of two in the country named and shamed for having “major concerns” over nutrition and dignity of care for the elderly in a report by national health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this year.
Patricia Hodges decided to take legal action after witnessing the treatment her 73-year-old husband Laurence, received at the hospital. Mr Hodges was admitted to the Alexandra Hospital after a stroke and only four months after undergoing open-heart surgery.
Despite knowledge of his heart operation, Mrs Hodges said medical staff used a hoist to lift her husband causing his ribs to “break open”. She describes him as screaming in pain but being prescribed only aspirin and his distress being wrongly attributed to back ache.
Mrs Hodges describes her husband as then being “doped on morphine”, and left dehydrated.
Mrs Hodges said: “He was desperate for water and would stick his tongue out. I’d say ‘Are you thirsty?’ and he’d go ‘yes, yes, yes’. When I asked a nurse why he didn’t have a drink, she said ‘He can’t drink, it will choke him’.
“I found a swab and dipped it in the water, dribbling it into his mouth, he was desperate for every drop.
“I wake up in the night now remembering him saying ‘yes, yes, yes’ and it makes me cry. He had no dignity at all. ‘Do not resuscitate’ was put in his notes but they never asked my permission, they took it out of my hands,” she tearfully added.
“We worked hard all of our lives and deserve the best care whatever age we are. The attitude seemed to be that my husband was old and had had his time. It is unbelievable how anyone there could walk past someone looking like my husband did and not give him even a drink. It was appalling.”
Chris Grande, from Matchborough, Redditch died after five days in the Alexandra Hospital, he was just 35 years old and suffered with spinal muscular atrophy.
Chris, who had a degree in counselling psychology, was admitted with breathing problems and aspirating fluid onto his lungs on December 26 2010.
His widow Sonya claims her husband was left screaming in pain, sitting in his own faeces, terrified of the nurses, dehydrated and starved.
She said he was given no food during his time in hospital as there were no feeding tubes available and no-one able to fit one and that nurses were uninterested in her husband’s condition even when he was crying out for help the day before he died in ward 2 on December 30 2010.
A “do not resuscitate” decision was made by the medical team against Mrs Grande’s wishes, and she said his consultant at another hospital later claimed he knew nothing about it.
“There was no dignity at all in Chris’s death. I feel like he was tortured in his final days” said Mrs Grande.
“He was humiliated and scared and I saw it happening to the other patients too.
“The day before he died, the nutritionist visited and said it was unacceptable he hadn’t been fed. His condition meant that lack of food would weaken his muscles. The poor man was starving to death.
“They think they can pick and choose when someone’s time is up. They felt he had no quality of life and it wasn’t worth saving, but he was happy with his life.
“I never got the chance to say goodbye and ‘I love you’ as the doctor took me aside when they gave him morphine and he never came round again. I still hear his screams, it haunts me.”
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