Third family raises fears about hospital care after 'wonderful' grandmother's death
The daughter of a grandmother-of-two has revealed the toll her untimely death had on the family amid growing criticism of a Suffolk hospital's handling of patient safety concerns.
Lucy Wheatley, whose mother Sheila Coley died after a fall at the West Suffolk Hospital in 2017, said she wanted to speak out about the effect the ordeal had on her family, after a watchdog raised fresh concerns about patient safety at the trust.
The 48-year-old, from Thetford, received a settlement and apology from the trust over her mother's care - but said recent news reports about the hospital's so-called 'witch-hunt' for a whistleblower had encouraged her to speak out and get back in touch with her solicitors.
Mrs Coley, who was 79, fell out of bed and broke her hip on what an inquest heard was an "understaffed" ward, and died just two weeks after she was admitted.
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"I just want to get across that my mum went into hospital and ended up dying of something completely unrelated to what she went in for," said Mrs Wheatley.
"When families suffer this sort of loss there's collateral damage - my father isn't the same man and has an innate fear of hospitals.
"He's a completely different person, he used to be outgoing, now he is very sad all the time.
She added: "Seeing similar things happening to other families breaks my heart.
"For us, we will live with this until the day we die."
Since Mrs Coley's death, the hospital has introduced additional checks when a patient arrives on a ward, alongside extra training for staff.
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An inquest into Mrs Coley's death, at Norfolk Coroner's Court in December 2018, heard she was taken to hospital, feeling confused, on June 21, 2017. She was given diazepam to help her calm down.
At 1am, Mrs Coley was taken from A&E to a ward, where there was a short verbal handover.
The nurse in charge said she was not told Mrs Coley was confused or had been given diazepam.
The inquest heard the ward was short-staffed and none of the nurses had the time to look at patients' records.
Overnight, Mrs Coley suffered a fall, which required an operation. She initially recovered well - but her condition deteriorated and she developed a chest infection, dying on July 8.
Area coroner Jacqueline Lake expressed concern about communication from the trust about action taken after Mrs Coley's death, concluding the 79-year-old died as a result of her injury.
How did the trust respond?
Bosses repeated their apology to Mrs Coley's family over the incident, adding: "We'd like to reiterate our sincere and heartfelt apologies to Mrs Coley's family.
"It was our duty to make sure we learned from what happened, and to implement that learning across the trust.
"We have increased the level of checks required for patients when they arrive in a ward, such as their need for bed side-rails or other equipment to help prevent falls.
"We have also carried out extensive additional training with staff on the ward.
The spokesman added: "We do not underestimate the impact this very sad incident has had, and will continue to have, on Mrs Coley's family and we continue to offer them our deepest sympathies."