Norfolk man Bob Hammond gets compensation from King’s Lynn hospital over late wife’s Do Not Resuscitate order

A Norfolk pensioner has received compensation from a hospital after a Do Not Resuscitate order was issued for his wife without his knowledge.

Bob Hammond says he only found out doctors had issued the order for his wife Jean after he obtained her medical records almost a year after her death at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

The 80-year-old took his case to court and has now secured an apology and �1,000 from the QEH, which he intends to donate to charity.

Mrs Hammond, who had vascular dementia, died at the age of 76, on June 28, 2007, due to pneumonia and a congested lung, chronic anaemia and dementia.

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order was issued by a doctor, with the reason that 'CPR would not result in a good quality of life' and she passed away before her husband could get to the hospital after being alerted that her condition had worsened.

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However, the grandfather-of-10 said he knew nothing about the DNR order until he saw it in copies of her medical notes a year later.

He said: 'I just couldn't believe it and just sat there with my mind reeling.

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'I have since read about it happening to other people and I bet it's happened hundreds and hundreds of times without people knowing.

'There wouldn't have been any attempt for resuscitation because that consultant signed that paper.

'I 99.75pc agree with what it said, that CPR would not result in a good quality of life. I can't say that's a lot of rubbish.

'But it's played on my mind a lot what I would have said if I was asked and I just can't give an answer.

'The thing that really upset me with the situation at the hsopital was that I could have been with my wife when she died. I could have been given that chance.'

Under medical guidelines, the orders should only be issued after senior staff have discussed the matter with the patient's family.

A spokesman for hospital said: 'A 'do not resuscitate' order is a decision made by clinicians when, in their professional opinion the person's underlying clinical condition is such that should they experience a cardio-respiratory arrest, treatment would be unsuccessful and futile. This does not preclude them receiving all other appropriate active treatment.

'We accept that this should have been discussed in more detail with Mr Hammond at the time. Senior members of our staff met him later to offer our apologies.'

The QEH has reviewed the way it handles DNR orders since Mr Hammond's complaint.

Mr Hammond, who wants hospitals across the country to improve the way they issue DNRs, said: 'I give the hospital credit for taking my complaint on board and since it happened there is now a new form.

'But I think there should be a space on there for the next of kin to sign to say that it has been discussed with them.'

He is hoping to raise the issue of how DNR orders are issued with his his MP.

The Hammonds, who were childhood sweethearts and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 2004, lived in their bungalow in Temple Road, King's Lynn, even after Jean was diagnosed with dementia in 2004.

However, it became increasingly difficult for Mr Hammond to continue looking after his wife as her condition deteriorated, as she had periods where she did not recognise him at all and became aggressive and sometimes violent towards him.

Towards the end of 2006 she was admitted to the inpatient dementia unit at Chatterton House in King's Lynn, but was eventually transferred to Briar House Care Home in Losinga Road.

At the time it was run by the now collapsed Southern Cross company, and Mr Hammond said he and his family were unhappy with many aspects of the care.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Mrs Hammond had several falls, including one where she is alleged to have been pushed over by a fellow resident and which left her with a broken hip.

He took Southern Cross to court and they settled out of court by refunding him more than �2,000 which he had paid in top up fees for her care, and which he subsequently donated to the Alzheimer's Society.

The home is now under new management and ownership.

However, it was while investigating her case that his solicitor Richard Barr uncovered the hospital's DNR order.

Mr Barr advised Mr Hammond to pursue them as small claims through the county court, rather than taking the extremely expensive option of litigation and both were settled before the cases could be heard, although for much smaller amounts than could be expected through litigation.

Mr Barr, a medical claims solicitor based in north Norfolk, said: 'It shows how effective the small claims court can be in settling these cases.'

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