By Chris Brooke
Last updated at 3:31 AM on 11th January 2012
A stroke victim died in hospital after bank holiday staff shortages led to appalling basic errors in her care.
Christine Lofthouse, 67, was admitted to St James’s Hospital in Leeds late on New Year’s Eve 2010.
But instead of receiving prompt medical attention, she was left on a trolley for hours, not given antibiotics to treat a urinary infection for a day and then prescribed the wrong medicine.
Nursing staff failed to monitor her condition, she was missed out by a consultant doing the morning ward round and her medical notes were incomplete.
Mrs Lofthouse’s health deteriorated and she died as a result of the infection three days after her admission.
Her son, Tim, later identified 140 mistakes in her medical notes and charts. He took legal action against the NHS trust and he has now received an apology and a settlement to cover his mother’s funeral expenses.
Mr Lofthouse, 45, was given a damning internal report detailing the catalogue of failures in his mother’s treatment.
‘There was no care at all as far as I’m concerned,’ he said.
‘The basics were all wrong, it was deplorable. How this could have happened I don’t know. They are trying to say it’s due to staffing levels, but doctors failed in their duty of care and so did the nurses.’
Retired seamstress Mrs Lofthouse, a mother-of-two with four grandchildren, suffered a stroke in the year before her death which left her bed-bound and on antibiotics.
Her son, a former postmaster who had given up his job to care for her, called an ambulance on New Year’s Eve because his mother had developed a urinary tract infection.
She had been treated for four similar infections – linked to a catheter she was fitted with – in the previous year, but this time the hospital let her down.
‘We called out “Happy New Year” to the seven other people waiting on trolleys at midnight,’ said Mr Lofthouse.
‘You can imagine the chaos.’
The report said the nightshift on Mrs Lofthouse’s ward began with four staff caring for 26 patients. ‘The workload pressures on this day were significant and resources appear insufficient,’ it said.
Mrs Lofthouse was initially given antibiotics in casualty, but blunders meant she didn’t receive any more for 24 hours.
When a second dose was given, the antibiotics had little chance of working because a junior doctor had failed to notice that Mrs Lofthouse had been taking them for a long time, meaning the infection had become resistant to them.
No checks were carried out on her vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, temperature and breathing, for 15 hours on New Year’s Day and the consultant on the morning round failed to see her.
Mrs Lofthouse was admitted to a high-dependency unit on January 2 and died the next night. The report concluded the failures in care ‘had a major effect’. Mr Lofthouse said: ‘After all that she had been through she was a fighter, and she was let down at the end.’
He said he was aware that his mother was not being given the attention she needed, but ‘short of physically grabbing the nurses there was a limit to what I could do’.
‘One of the greatest things about this country is the NHS, but when it goes wrong it goes wrong badly,’ he said.
A spokesman for the trust said the care fell short of its standards and it had developed an action plan to ensure lessons had been learned.