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Daughter of woman who developed fatal pressure sores receives compensation

A legal claim against Durham County Council has been settled following the death of an 81-year-old woman in March 2012

Audrey Peace

10 January 2017

A legal claim against Durham County Council has been settled following the death of an 81-year-old woman in March 2012. 

Audrey Peace, of Pelton, County Durham, died in March 2012 from ‘large infected pressure sores’ after alleged inadequate treatment at the care home in which she lived.

A legal claim was brought against Durham County Council and Durham and Darlington NHS Trust by Mrs Peace before she died in relation to the poor care she had received. Following her death her daughter, Karen Armstrong, also of Pelton, took over the legal claim in relation to poor nursing care leading to severe deterioration of pressure sores and the death of Mrs Peace.
On 28 December 2011 Mrs Peace suffered a fall at home and fractured her arm. She attended A&E at University Hospital North Durham and was discharged to Mendip House, a care home managed at the time by Durham County Council. 

Mrs Peace stayed at Mendip House for a period of six weeks. During that time, she developed severe pressure sores. Whilst at the home she was attended to by district nurses employed by the trust. 

According to evidence from a medical expert there were failures to treat and to adequately document the pressure sores and one on her elbow was completely missed by the district nurses and the care home staff until it was noted at an orthopaedic outpatient appointment.
Mrs Peace was discharged home from Mendip House on 6 February 2012, however, according to the expert an insufficient care package was put in place. She had been receiving 24-hour care at Mendip House but following her discharge a package of only four 30-minute visits was requested initially, later increased to four one-hour visits. 

Mrs Peace’s health and the condition of the pressure sores declined rapidly soon after and she was readmitted to University Hospital North Durham on 11 February where it was noted that her pressure sores were infected. 

Her condition continued to deteriorate and she died on 25 March 2012. The primary cause of death stated on her death certificate was ‘large infected pressure sores’.
A number of other issues relating to safeguarding alerts were raised by Mrs Armstrong whilst Mrs Peace was a resident at Mendip House. Mrs Armstrong also raised concerns about how she was treated during the complaints process by both the trust and the council. 

Mrs Armstrong complained to both the parliamentary and health service ombudsman and to the local government ombudsman who produced a joint report which was published in 2016. The report found failings by both the council and the trust.
Several admissions were made Durham and Darlington NHS Trust and an offer to settle quickly followed in October 2015. 

The case against the council in relation to the claim under the Human Rights Act settled in July 2016 and payment of damages was received at the end of 2016. 

Mrs Armstrong said: “Nothing is ever going to bring my mam back but we now have at least some sense of closure. I hope that the trust and the council have learned lessons from my mam’s case and will put these into action so no other family has to go through what we have been through.”

Emma Jones, partner in law firm Leigh Day’s Human Rights team, represented Mrs Armstrong. She said: “It is clear from the expert evidence and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report there were a number of failings in this case.  The Council state that action has been taken.  We hope that sufficient action has been taken and preventative measures put into place to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.”

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