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Widower settles case after wife's death in Harrow Hospital

A 66 year old man has reached a settlement with a Harrow hospital after his late wife's care was allegedly mismanaged

Barbara Bass died after admission to St Mark

30 October 2014

The husband of a 66 year old woman who died after her care was allegedly mismanaged and whose fractured hip went untreated in one of the country’s leading hospitals has received a settlement from the NHS Trust following her death in 2009.

Barbara Bass died on 16 November 2009. Her husband Tony took legal action after the hospital refused to accept their part in her death.

On 26 September 2009 Mrs Bass went to St Mark’s Hospital in Harrow, Middlesex, with a fractured central venous catheter, a tube that transferred food to her stomach through a vein.

She had a complex medical history and had to be fed intravenously, bypassing the usual process of eating and digestion. Three attempts were made to repair the line but these were unsuccessful so Mrs Bass was admitted to the Intestinal Failure Unit on Wednesday 7th October.

However, it wasn’t until 16th October that a replacement feeding line was inserted but this continued to cause her problems. By this time Mrs Bass has had no intravenous feeding for at least 22 days.

Between her admission on the 7th October until 18th October she lost 2 kgs in weight. On 19 October Mrs Bass collapsed on the ward and fractured her hip, a pelvic x-ray was taken but the fracture was not diagnosed until 10 days after the fall, on 29th October.

Despite Mrs Bass having a broken hip and being in a great deal of pain during this time, she was subjected to physiotherapy and being mobilised by the nurses. She also underwent a series of procedures to re-introduce a feeding tube, which could give her the food she required.

These were unsuccessful and so Mrs Bass was admitted to the High Dependency Unit at the hospital on 24thOctober. She died on 16 November from a myocardial infarction, septicaemia and pneumonia.

An expert on behalf of lawyers Leigh Day, who represented Mr Bass, severely criticised the care Mrs Bass received at the hospital.

The expert, himself a Professor of gastroenterology, was critical of the number of attempts made to repair the feeding tube when Mrs Bass first attended St Mark’s, a nationally funded tertiary centre of excellence and dedicated intestinal failure unit, and the failure to promptly reinsert a further feeding line.

Having not received any intravenous feeding for 11 days when she was admitted to hospital, a plan to instigate insertion of her feeding line should have been made immediately given the length of time she had been without nutrition.

The expert was critical of the management of the hip fracture, the fact that a poor quality x-ray was undertaken but there was no urgency to explore the reason for Mrs Bass’ consistent pain until eventually a CT scan on 27th October 2009 was undertaken showing a fracture.

Suzanne White from Leigh Day, the lawyer representing Mr Bass, said: “This was a dreadful case which resulted in Mrs Bass enduring terrible suffering, pain and distress, witnessed by Mr Bass. In the letter of response to Mr Bass’ complaint the Trust admitted that Mrs Bass had been 36 days without an intravenous feed. The lack of nutrition led to her being more vulnerable to a fall, which resulted in a fractured hip.

“We can only hope that the reforms to the NHS since 2009 will make sure that these types of cases become a thing of the past but our experience tells us otherwise. Something must be done fundamentally within the NHS to ensure that it regains the principles on which it was founded.”

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