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Grieving woman's hospital action

PUBLISHED: 17:36 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:38 23 August 2010

CAMPAIGN: Linda Evans.

CAMPAIGN: Linda Evans.

A WOMAN whose mother died after falling in hospital has battled to secure changes to the way patients with Alzheimer s are treated. Elsie Barnett, 93, was admitted to Darent Valley hospital in November last year with a fractured wrist, but she fell whils

A WOMAN whose mother died after falling in hospital has battled to secure changes to the way patients with Alzheimer's are treated.

Elsie Barnett, 93, was admitted to Darent Valley hospital in November last year with a fractured wrist, but she fell whilst using a commode, unattended. She never recovered and died less than a month later, on December 20, sparking a one-woman crusade for justice by her grieving daughter, Linda Evans.

Mrs Evans, 63, of Daltons Road, Crockenhill, said: "We have lost our mum. She went in with a fractured risk and she was left alone to have an accident and now she is dead. It doesn't matter what age she was, she shouldn't have died that way.

"How could she use a commode properly? We had stressed that she was 93, she was not fully mobile and she had Alzheimer's. It's just not good enough."

After her death Mrs Evans complained to hospital bosses saying she should not have been left alone to use the commode. On March 11 she sent a nine-page letter of complaint to hospital officials, outlining events since her mother fractured her wrist at Seven Acres retirement home in Crockenhill on November 27.

Hospital bosses have now fully investigated the cause of Mrs Barnett's death and sent the findings to her daughter, detailing policy changes since the tragedy.

She also received a full apology from the chief executive, Mark Devlin, who wrote: "It is clear that your mother should not have been left on her own and a member of staff should have stayed with her while she was on the commode, especially given her history of Alzheimer's and her previous fall. Unfortunately, staffing levels were under pressure on this occasion and did not help the situation."

He added: "The staff and the Trust as an organisation had a duty to ensure her safety. We clearly failed in this duty and for this, I apologise sincerely."

In the report, Mr Devlin admitted the hospital should have had more than one registered nurse and a nursing assistant on the observation ward and should have completed a risk assessment. He went on to say a sister has now been employed to permanently man the ward, that risk assessment is now compulsory for every patient and that he will ensure staff awareness and training. A hospital spokesperson said: "We offer our sincere condolences to Mrs Evans on the sad loss of her mother Elsie Barnett. We have reviewed our procedures on the ward in question and new measures have been adopted to help reduce the risk of patients suffering falls in hospital. A new Sister has now been appointed to the ward and staffing levels have returned to normal once more."

A national dementia strategy was published by the department for health on February 3 entitled Living Well with Dementia. Recommended action, to be taken within five years, includes having one person who is responsible for dementia services in a hospital.

elizabeth.thornton@archant.co.uk

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