"5 months since my Father's unexpected death and still no information"

About: Derriford Hospital / Accident and emergency Derriford Hospital / General medicine

(as a relative),

Our father had mixed but generally very good care from doctors at Derriford Hospital since he was diagnosed with chronic renal failure nearly a quarter of a century ago. This included the thorough treatment he received prior to and following a successful Kidney Transplant in 1994. Also it is only proper to reflect positively on the care and attention he received from the many renal nurses and other care assistants/nurses who tended to him over the course of his many visits to hospital, all of whom he held in high regard.

Most recently he had a different experience. He was very frustrated and disappointed and had become quite upset and disillusioned about the lack of care and lack of treatment and lack of information he was given following his admission to Derriford Hospital after a fall at home in late January 2013. This included him being discharged briefly for a week in late February and in my opinion ultimately led to his untimely death in late March 2013.

Our father’s sense of frustration had grown as he had been explaining since last summer to doctors about feeling extreme fatigue and a complete lack of energy and this had left him feeling light headed and weak. This symptom had only materialised after he had begun Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis at home. After beginning CAPD, he seemed to feel as if he was being left to his own devices and when he complained of fatigue and having no energy, he was told simplistically to exercise more. His complete lack of energy and weariness was what eventually led in late January to him falling at home as he lost consciousness whilst trying to make a cup of tea.

In my opinion Doctor A did not treat our father properly initially after his admission in late January. This included giving him a 6 day course of antibiotics (which seems surprisingly brief) for pneumonia on the left lung and then authorising his premature discharge in late February. Doctor A ignored our Fathers plea to examine his left lung pain and shortness of breath down to the diagnosis of two displaced ribs on the left side. It felt that our father’s treatment was chaotic and dangerous seemingly due to failure of the Doctor A’s lack of clear communication. Our father was often left dehydrated, with bleeding limbs due to apparent negligence and poor man handling from some doctors. Our Father only was addressed properly and informed of the current “trial treatment” when I took his doctors to task on their lack of professionalism and compassion towards my Father’s well being and recovery. Myself, my brother and our Father felt that we were never fully informed of our Father's treatment or reason for it, only that they were doing everything they could. However I do beg to differ on this point as within our Fathers last 24 hours numerous doctors from different departments were asked to see our Father to run numerous tests ie bone marrow samples. We do not understand why these tests had not been run earlier, particularly as it fuelled our family with false hope as the test results would take 7 days to return.

Sadly after his readmission due to breathing difficulties, the doctors we met on Mayflower Ward themselves seemed without much idea generally. Our father was particularly frustrated with Doctor B who he said was aloof and uncommunicative. When we observed Doctor B during his ward rounds a few days before my father died, he seemed quite unperturbed by our father's clearly worsening condition and claimed to be treating his chest infection ‘empirically’ on what proved to be less than 48 hours before his death.

We feel that our father was treated poorly during what proved to be his last visit to Derriford Hospital, and our experiences since his death have apparently confirmed the shoddy approach of some of the staff. We have both tried to liaise with the bereavement team at Derriford Hospital after our initial meeting with them the day after our father died, at which we gave permission for an autopsy to be completed. We gave our consent for a post mortem examination and sample to be taken on the understanding this would determine what had caused the chest infection and inform the doctors prior to our meeting with them to discuss those results. The doctors themselves wanted to know what had caused our father's death as they did not seem to know.

Five months have now elapsed since we gave our consent for this procedure and we have not had information. We feel like we have been deliberately ignored and our attempts to ascertain what has happened are being frustrated, and we are left wondering why this is the case? We have sent in a complaint letter but the due date that the hospital set themselves to get back to us has expired. This seems to us not only unprofessional and to demonstrate a lack of care and thought for grieving relatives, but also seems symptomatic of the directionless treatment we believe our father received. It would seem at best to indicate an organisation that is incompetent and totally dysfunctional and is deeply troubling.

The bereavement team have not kept us informed about what has happened. We have requested a meeting with Doctor B so we can discuss the results from the autopsy together but have heard nothing. It was only the intervention of the Critical Care Team, who arrived on Mayflower Ward to accompany our father for an Xray who intervened and stopped what we regarded as being inhumane treatment. A junior doctor had the decency to apologise for this when we went to the hospital the day after our father died. This well meaning but inadequate response is all we have received by way of an explanation.

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Responses

Response from Mary Anderson, Senior Quality Facilitator, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

Dear Amy65

I am extremely sorry to read your concerns in relation to your father's last episode of care at Derriford Hospital and I note with sadness that this did not meet your family's expectations given his previous experiences at the hospital. This is a concern and I have made the departments involved aware of your feedback.

I am particularly concerned that you have not yet received news of the outcome of your father's post mortem. We have let you down and on behalf of the Trust, I sincerely apologise for the additional distress this has caused you and your family at what is already a difficult time.

We would be grateful for the opportunity to speak to you next week and can be contacted via the Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 01752 439884. Please ask to speak to Jayne Glynn, Patient Experience Manager.

Kind regards

Mary

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