Norfolk mental health patient, 73, catches Covid after being moved to Darlington

Kathleen Cantell, 73, was transferred to a hospital in Darlington after a stint at a Cromer care hom

Kathleen Cantell, 73, was transferred to a hospital in Darlington after a stint at a Cromer care home did not work out. Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant

The county’s mental health service is facing criticism after a woman in her 70s in its care caught coronavirus when she was transferred 240 miles away to Darlington.

Kay Cantell said her mother Kathleen, 73, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was on leave from Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth when her bed was given to someone else.

When an arrangement at Elsenham House in Cromer did not work out, her mother was transferred to a private hospital near Darlington.

Ms Cantell said: “I got the call on September 23 saying she was being moved. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I then got a call saying she’d caught coronavirus on October 29. It was disgraceful.”

A Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) spokesperson said it wanted to apologise to Kathleen Cantell that she did not receive care “as close to home as possible”, and that it “carefully considers every decision to place a patient out of area”.

The news comes after the NSFT’s chief medical officer Dr Dan Dalton pledged to never again allow “frail and older” patients to be sent out of the county following the death of Peggy Copeman at the side of the M11 last year - unless “one of the executive team and a consultant psychiatrist decides it is the only thing that can be done for them”.


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In response to Mrs Cantell’s situation, Mrs Copeman’s son-in-law Nick Fulcher said Dr Dalton “should resign”.

He said: “Here we go again. I was told just last week were no more elderly patients being taken out of the area for treatment, but clearly that was plain false.

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“Mrs Cantell might have been sent up north before the tier system came into place, but anyone could see that there was a risk.”

In April 2020, the NSFT revealed there were three people in out-of-area beds, down from 70 in October 2019. But by late summer, due to increased demand, the number had risen to 28.

It added that 16 new beds had recently opened at Hellsdon Hospital and 21 more were on the way via an independent provider.

Ms Cantell said: “Mr Dalton has promised me his priority is getting my mum back to Norfolk once she’s tested negative - but there’s every chance she would never have caught coronavirus if she’d been where she was supposed to be.

“Her symptoms have been mild, but others might not have been so lucky.”

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