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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Dying woman left to wait for hours in Carlisle hospital A&E

A terminally-ill woman was left lying on a hospital stretcher for almost seven hours – just days after hospital bosses apologised to her for poor treatment she’d previously suffered.

Kathleen and Arthur Armstrong photo
Kathleen and Arthur Armstrong

Kathleen Armstrong, 74, has oesophageal cancer and has been hospitalised repeatedly – in pain and dehydrated – at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary in recent months.

Her husband, Arthur, 80, contacted The Cumberland News in May because he felt his wife had been let down frequently by staff at the hospital.

He claimed Mrs Armstrong, a former nursery assistant, of Raffles, Carlisle, had been left to “lie on a stretcher for hours and hours with a tumour in her gullet”.

Issues with the fitting of her intravenous drip, being “left in a cupboard”, a long delay in discharge and medication sent to the wrong ward were also among his concerns.

On August 14, Mr Armstrong was sent a lengthy response to his complaint from Ann Farrar, the hospital’s interim chief executive.

But just one week after the letter was sent, Mrs Armstrong was readmitted to the infirmary and her husband insists she suffered an equally horrendous ordeal.

He said: “She had to suffer six-and-a-half hours laying on a stretcher in A&E. It was just an X-ray stretcher – she didn’t even have a pillow.

“I stayed with her for three-and-a-half hours, until my son arrived from work in Penrith, because I was exhausted. After my daughter arrived, my son eventually complained to the staff and they brought a bed and a pillow for her to lay on.

“Because she was in pain they gave her morphine and put her on a drip – which she should have had on admission.”

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has since admitted that a high number of emergency admissions affected Mrs Armstrong’s treatment on August 21, and has pledged to look into the issues.

“We are sorry to hear that Mr Armstrong feels there have been further difficulties with his wife’s care. We are looking into this for him and will respond personally to him,” a spokeswoman said.

“Mrs Armstrong was admitted by her GP and should have gone straight to our Emergency Admissions Unit (EAU). Unfortunately this was not possible at the time of her admission as we had taken a large number of emergency admissions on that day.”

She added: “Mrs Armstrong was admitted to the EAU as soon as a bed became available and in the meantime received tests and assessments in our A&E department.”

Mr Armstrong says he feels “terribly let down” by the hospital, especially in the light of the detailed response and apology he received to his previous complaint.

The letter, which arrived on the day Mrs Armstrong was readmitted, began by apologising for the delay in responding. Mrs Farrar reassured the couple that the trust’s complaints process is currently being reviewed to prevent similar delays in future.

She went on to address each of the Armstrongs’ concerns, apologising for the “unacceptable delay” in providing the great-grandmother’s discharge medications, and explaining the changes in protocols which have been implemented to ensure other patients do not experience the same concerns.

Mrs Farrar explained that Mrs Armstrong had been treated in a single room – not a cupboard – because she had been vomiting before admittance.

“We are sorry you perceived this treatment area to feel like a cupboard,” she wrote. “The trust is working hard to address the patient flow issues.”

Other changes have also been put in place in response to the couple’s complaints, and Mrs Armstrong’s experience “will be shared with the nursing team so they can reflect and learn from what occurred”.

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