"I am still searching for a way to come to terms..."

About: Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Gateshead)

What I liked

My mother was admitted in December 2010.She was 90 years old. She was very dehydrated and had an infection in her lungs. I was told that she could not swallow and could not eat or drink.

Her condition deteriorated and by the 21st December, her Birthday, I asked staff not to reintroduce the drips she had been on as the experience was too traumatic. I talked to the Consultant, who was kind and sympathetic and explained that she was very frail, that they would keep her comfortable and let nature take its course. I aked if I could take her home but I was told she was too poorly.

The Liverpool pathway was talked about. I didn't really know what this was.

My mother died on the evening of Christmas Day. I saw her at lunch time and then went home. I received a phone call at 3am to tell me that she had died. I have found this very difficult to deal with and am suffering from sever depression . I feel that I initiated events that led to her death.

In addition I know that the Liverpool Pathway was mentioned but I didn't realise that this meant the patient was deprived of food and water. I Don't know if this happened to my mother.

I have written to the Consultant and he was very kind in his reply.

I just wish that I could talk to someone who was there and saw her in her last hours. I think she died alone and I find this thought unbearable.

What could be improved

Everyone was very kind but I feel I didn't take the information in. I didn't understand what the Liverpool Pathway involved. She should not have died alone.Somebody should have been with her. If that was not possible I should have been contacted. It would have meant so much to her and to me.

Anything else?

I think all relatives should be made aware that a dying patient will not be totally monitored and that there is a possibility that they may die alone. Most relatives would appreciate this and make themselves available.The Liverpool pathway should be explained fully and the lack of food and drink made clear and the suffering which this probably entails.

I do not think that it will be useful to publish this account I would just like to think that staff were made aware of the terrible consequences such a death has and to think carefully how they would feel if someone thay loved died alone in this way.

I am sure that all who attended my mother were kind but that is no compensation for the fact that she died alone and helpless.

Story from NHS Choices

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Response from Queen Elizabeth Hospital

I am sorry to hear you are so upset by the events surrounding your mother’s death and I can assure you that your mother was treated with the utmost respect and compassion. The Liverpool Care Pathway is a nationally recognised treatment plan for caring for people at the very end of their lives and we work hard to ensure we work to its standards. Patients on the Liverpool Care Pathway are never denied food or drink but are often not well enough to take much by mouth and evidence suggests that this rarely causes significant discomfort at the end of life We can never be exactly sure when someone is going to die but when we see a clear deterioration in someone’s condition, we immediately contact the family to advise them to attend the hospital if they wish. I have taken on board your comments about not feeling that you understood what the care pathway was about and will work on that with the staff on the ward.

We do have a bereavement officer in the hospital who works with all relatives through the bereavement process, no matter when your loved one died. If you think it would be helpful, you could call Jo Charlton on 445 2738 to talk through your concerns further.

Carmel Majmuder


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