Suffolk father’s open letter criticises ombudsman over investigation into death of UEA student Averil Hart
PUBLISHED: 11:37 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:37 02 February 2017
The father of a gifted student who fell critically ill and died within weeks of starting university has criticised those investigating her death in an open letter.
Averil Hart, who had been suffering from anorexia for a few years, was just 19 when she was found unconscious by a cleaner in her flat at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich.
Rushed to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in a critical condition, the former Colchester school pupil died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, just days later in December 2012.
For the past four years her father Nic Hart, from Sudbury, and mother Miranda Campbell have been searching for answers using services offered by the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).
Averil’s family say she suffered a head injury after falling on a ward at the Norwich hospital, and that her transfer to Addenbrooke’s, run by the Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust was delayed.
They also claim she was only seen by the UEA medical centre four times during her time at university, despite her requiring weekly appointments.
Now Mr Hart has criticised the PHSO in an open letter which claims they have failed the family – and Averil.
Writing in a letter addressed to PHSO chief Dame Julie Mellor, Mr Hart said: “After nearly three years of frustration and heartache, I write to inform you of the extreme difficulties and problems that I have encountered with the ombudsman’s services and the pain that it continues to cause myself and the rest of Averil’s family.
“Averil Hart died in the care of the NHS trusts that were entrusted to look after her. After being found unconscious in her kitchen, Averil was taken to NNUH where it became evident they were ill-equipped and inexperienced in the treatment of a patient suffering from anorexia.”
The letter goes on to say that, at the request of her family, Averil was moved to Addebrooke’s Hospital, where she died on December 15, 2012.
Mr Hart goes on to list a string of failings he claims the PHSO has made relating to the investigation into Averil’s case.
“It has been 890 days since our submission to the PHSO and after more than 10 meetings with five different investigators, all assigned to our report and then resigning from their position, we still feel the PHSO investigation is far from complete,” he said.
“The PHSO seems unable to appreciate this and has only apologised for delay in its process, even though they have failed at every juncture of this process. Unable to recognise the additional pain and suffering they are causing to Averil’s family.”
“We want to be able to properly grieve knowing what happened to Averil.
“What the ombudsman is doing by closing her case is putting more people in danger and not allowing others to be saved.”
A spokesman for the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman said the service investigates complaints thoroughly, fairly and impartially and decisions it reaches are evidence-based.
“There can be times when people find it hard to agree with our findings and we work with them to explain how we reached our decisions; this can take time,” he said.
“We can’t comment on the detail of individual cases while they are open but we recognise this is a complex and very difficult case,” he added.
A UEA spokesman said the university could not comment on Mr Hart’s concerns about the PHSO.
“The loss of anyone’s son or daughter is a tragedy for all concerned and Averil’s family have our sincere condolences for their loss,” he added.
A NNUH spokesman said: “We met Averil’s family in 2014 to offer our sincere condolences for their sad and tragic loss.
“Averil spent four days at NNUH in 2012 and was cared for by a consultant who specialised in clinical nutrition and was seen by this consultant within an hour of admittance to hospital.
“The consultant responsible for Averil’s care decided that she needed to be transferred into the care of Addenbrooke’s Hospital because of a particular complication connected to her condition in which Addenbrooke’s specialises.”
Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment when contacted by this paper.