"Upset with care in my wife's final months"

About: Fair Havens Hospice Southend Hospital / Palliative medicine

(as a relative),

My wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer 3/1/08, and died 6/10/08 in Southend University hospital. During this period, I felt that her clinical and nursing care was appalling. All of this has been told to the hospital, and is subject to enquiry and review.

At times during her care, my wife's patient file notes were not made up, and often her patient record was not available. Her medication and pain relief was not always given when needed. Her discharge medication was sometimes not given, prescription ignored, or in sufficient quantity or missed off entirely. And her 24 hour chemo infusion was administered in 8 hours, despite 2 nurses who were legally bound to countersign the chart and check each others procedure.

My wife on another occasion became so ill, despite notes in the file and her drawing staffs attention at 11.30 a.m. to how she was feeling, and my doing so in the afternoon, that she subsequently had 2 fits. During the 2nd one, I was the only person available and alerted staff. They told her next day that a CT scan showed the cancer had spread to her brain. The impact of this news can only be imagined. Luckily an MRI scan, on analysis, showed this not to be the case. But the damage to our confidence was done. Finally, she had drain tube fitted, under a short medical procedure, to draw off fluid build up. The flow rate should have been controlled, but was allowed to free drain, which was completely wrong. I drew staff attention to this at the time and expressed my concern and increasing despair at what was happening.

She was discharged ill, which is agreed. The hospital failed to inform the districts nurses, standard procedure, of the discharge and management. They found out from me. She drained freely for 10 days, literally draining the life out of her with district Macmillan nurses and emergency call out doctor, apparently watching it happen, and my seeing her decline. She was readmitted to hospital with kidney failure. Her cancer was back, but this accelerated her decline. She was left for over 4 hours, by doctors who said she was not on their list. This had happened numerous times over the period of her illness. I felt some doctors and consultants had appalling attitudes, and arrogance seemed to prevail.

She survived a further 10 days in hospital before she died. I stayed for the whole time and, as I said at the review meeting, it was hell knowing what she had been through and what she went through in that period before she died. A lot more happened, but that is the essence of the story. It is scary and frightening that so much should happen to one person in such a short period of time, when she knew from the outset she only had 6 months to a year to live. She was remarkably brave, showed incredible strength and humility, did not want to be a burden, but I feel she was ultimately failed by a system meant to care but too bound up in justifying its own existence. This attitude was shown time and again from the highest to the lowest. And they didn’t seem to follow their own complaints procedure correctly. This just adds insult to injury and the disdain with which I feel we were treated.

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