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5 June 2013, 17:22
A Leicestershire hospital has admitted that basic care failures were responsible for a 100-year-old great grandmother dying from dehydration.
Lydia Spilner was admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary in January 2012 with a suspected chest infection and dehydration but over a four week period, her condition was allowed to deteriorate and her daughter's desperate pleas for her mother to be put on a drip were repeatedly ignored until it was too late.
University Hospitals of Leicestershire NHS Trust has now admitted that Lydia died due to renal failure caused by dehydration and has paid her family an undisclosed out of court settlement.
However, daughter, Nora, from Tilton on the Hill, says the nurses responsible for Lydia's care should be ashamed for failing to show an ounce of compassion.
Medical law experts at Lime Solicitors representing Lydia's family in their legal battle for justice, say the incident is one of several they have dealt with involving basic failings in elderly care at the same hospital and are now calling on the Trust to urgently review standards to prevent other patients suffering in the future.
Speaking out for the first time since her mother?s death, Nora Spilner said: "Despite being 100-years-old, you would never have guessed, to look at her. Mum came to Britain as a refugee at the end of World War Two when Russian troops invaded her home country of Latvia. It was probably her tough upbringing that made her so fiercely independent in later life.
"Apart from using a walking stick to help her get around she was in good shape for her age."
In January 2012, Lydia developed breathing problems. A chest infection and possible fluid on the lungs were suspected and she was prescribed water tablets. However the medication caused her to suffer severe dehydration and by 27th January her speech had also became confused, so her family were advised to take her to hospital.
Nora continued: "The A&E doctors explained that her confused speech was a clear sign she had become dehydrated. They put her on a drip and within just two hours she was back to her normal self. In hindsight, I wish I had taken her back home then, because I firmly believe I could have taken better care of her and she would still be alive today.
"Instead I put my trust in the hospital and allowed her to be moved to an elderly care ward, thinking she would be in good hands and they would be able to sort out her chest infection."
Lydia was transferred to ward 31 of Leicester Royal Infirmary, where Nora visited her every day and soon became alarmed that her mother?s condition was again deteriorating.
She continued ?One afternoon when I visited, I noticed that she had no water near her bed that she could drink. I requested a jug from the nurse but she said the jug was broken and they had no others available. My mum?s skin was becoming dry and cracked and it was clear to me she was very dehydrated. I pleaded with the doctors to put her back on a drip but it took ten days for them to take action.
?Even then the drip didn?t work properly. They first tried to administer it through her leg which swelled up like a balloon and later they tried her hand and arm but the drip either stopped working properly or made her arm swell.?
Almost four weeks after being admitted to ward 31 of Leicester Royal Infirmary, Lydia died on 22nd February 2012. Her cause of death was confirmed as renal failure, combined with poor blood flow to her lower limbs. Lydia, who was widowed in 1970, left behind a son and daughter, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Robert Rose a medical law expert and partner with Lime Solicitors, commented: ?Nora and her family have understandably been left devastated by what happened to their mother. When we investigated Lydia?s care, medical evidence revealed that the hospital had failed to hydrate her appropriately.
"We discovered that following initial treatment in A&E on 28th January, Lydia received no IV fluids at all until 8th February. When IV treatment was finally given between 8th and 12th February she received fluid in quantities sufficient to maintain but not replace the amount she had already lost. In short, our medical evidence showed that the ten days without sufficient fluids caused her to develop renal failure and brought forward her death."
"The Trust has admitted there were clear failings in the care Lydia received. However, the fact that we have dealt with other cases against the same hospital in similar circumstances is of great concern and we are urging the Trust to prove to the local community it serves that real improvements have since been made to elderly patient care at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
"Following the well publicised reports of failings at Mid Staffs Hospital and the Government's call for greater compassion to be demonstrated by the nursing profession, there clearly needs to be a greater focus on standards of patient care and, where failings are identified, tougher action needs to be taken to demonstrate that lessons have indeed been learnt."
Nora added: "What I find so hard to forgive is the way my Mum?s condition was allowed to deteriorate with very little thought given to her dignity. I do not accept that it was her time to die and she certainly did not deserve to go like she did. The way she was looked after on ward 31 was appalling. The nurses didn?t show her an ounce of compassion.
"Mum was prescribed antibiotics but they caused horrific blisters in her mouth which meant it was too painful for her to eat. She was not provided with any soft food or soup and every day she would complain that she was starving.
"I begged the hospital staff to give her some nourishment but was told by a doctor that ?although she keeps saying she is hungry, she is quite alright."
"One afternoon I arrived to find that she had fallen from her chair and had rolled underneath her bed. There were no nurses around and I have no idea how long she had been lying there. Another time I found Mum had lumps of porridge caked in her hair. I asked a nurse why she was in such a state and she just laughed and said Mum had fallen asleep in her breakfast. I was so angry that she found the incident amusing and had made no attempt to clean her up.
"There were times when I found my Mum lying in urine soaked sheets. Little was done to help her with personal hygiene and it was heartbreaking to witness her slowly losing her dignity. My Mum deserved better and I hope the nurses who were responsible for her care are thoroughly ashamed of themselves."
Statement from Leicester Hospitals:
Sue Mason, divisional head of nursing said: “It’s clear that our failure to give Mrs Spilner intravenous fluids was a catastrophic error for which we have apologised; we know that saying sorry won’t bring her back but we at least want her family to know that we will not avoid our responsibility, we are truly sorry. As regards the equally important issue of the compassion shown to Mrs Spilner; since this happened in 2012, we have changed the nurse leadership on this ward, increased staffing levels and introduced hourly ward rounds. Again, we realise these actions will not alter anything for the family but we hope that it shows we take their experience seriously.”