83-year-old 'sentenced to death' by Epsom Hospital
8:00am Friday 19th October 2012 in News
An 83-year-old was “handed a death sentence” by Epsom Hospital after being admitted for a routine infection, according to her daughter.
Jane Taylor said former Epsom Hospital volunteer Phyllis Nicholls, 83, was admitted to the Croft ward in May 2011 for a urinary tract infection (UTI) – a ward that she said “had such a reputation for neglecting elderly patients, old folk feared it”.
The 57-year-old said her mother deteriorated on the ward due to neglect and because she was deliberately deprived of food and water after secretly being placed on the Liverpool End of Life Pathway (LELP) – measures developed for the hospice movement a decade ago as a way of easing terminal patients towards death in their final days.
These include the withdrawal of life-saving treatment, heavy sedation and dehydration when death is imminent.
Mrs Taylor insists there was no reason why her mother should not have made a full recovery, but instead she died at the hospital on July 29 last year of heart and kidney failure and septicaemia.
A number of cases of people being put on the LELP without their knowledge, or the knowledge of their relatives, have come to light nationally in recent weeks.
MPs including Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham have called for an urgent review into how the pathway operates.
Mrs Taylor said she only became aware her mother was on the LELP when she was moved to a side room and her notes were lying on the window with “ELP” written on top.
She said: “Mum was not terminal when she entered Croft ward. She was reduced to deterioration and terminality by neglect.”
“I could not believe the arrogance and secrecy. How dare they deprive my mum of recovery then casually take away her life?”
Mrs Taylor is seeking an investigation into her mother’s death by the Health Ombudsman and General Medical Council, but may take legal action.
Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust was criticised in a 2011 Care Quality Commission inspection for hydration and nutrition issues.
Pippa Hart, the trust’s director of nursing, said: “Providing our patients with the highest level of care is, and will always be, our main priority.
"Whilst the vast majority of patients who use our services are happy with the treatment they receive, we take any complaint very seriously and will not hesitate to investigate what went wrong and how we could improve.
"We have acknowledged that the family of Mrs Nicholls have some concerns about the level of care she received in hospital, and recognise that some aspects of the treatment provided could have been communicated more effectively with the family.
"We are very sorry for this short fall in communication.
“We have been working closely with the relatives to address their concerns, and following a number of letters from our Chief Executive and myself, I met with Mrs Nicholls’ daughter and granddaughter to hear and discuss the issues.
“However, I would encourage Mrs Nicholls’s family to get back in touch with us to discuss this matter.
"We have heard nothing in response to a letter sent to them on the 5 July 2012, but I am keen to provide answers for the family during what must be a difficult time.”