Rustie Lee’s elderly mother saved from end-of-life genocide Supportive Care Pathway

‘We definitely didn’t think she was at death’s door’: TV cook Rustie Lee accuses hospital of putting her elderly mother on pathway for dying patients

Eugenie Edwards, 87, admitted to Birmingham City Hospital with chest infection
Within hours her family were told the grandmother had just 48 hours to live due to heart and kidney failure
Mrs Edwards was put on a Supportive Care Pathway and denied food, liquid or painkillers she couldn’t swallow
Pathway is also for end-of-life care, but is not deemed as harsh as the Liverpool Care Pathway
Angry family contested move and a recovered Mrs Edwards was discharged from hospital six days later

By Anna Hodgekiss
PUBLISHED: 13:09, 31 October 2012 | UPDATED: 14:57, 31 October 2012

TV star Rustie Lee has accused a Birmingham hospital putting her mother on a Liverpool Care Pathway-style plan – after wrongly warning her family she was dying.

Eugenie Edwards, 87, was admitted to City Hospital on October 13 with a chest infection. Within hours Rustie says she was told her mum had just 48 hours to live, as she was suffering from heart and kidney failure.

The family were then told the grandmother-of-three was being put on a pathway plan for end-of-life patients, where medication can be reduced.

Yet angry TV chef Rustie, famous for her appearances in the 1980s breakfast show TV-am, refused permission after insisting her mother was not dying – and six days later a recovered Mrs Edwards was discharged from hospital.

The pensioner, who was diagnosed with dementia five years ago, is now back at her nursing home in Ladywood, Birmingham.

TV cook Rustie told the Birmingham Mail: ‘When I saw my mum in hospital she did seem poorly, but not as if she was about to pass away. In fact, she didn’t look close to that.

‘Yet we were told she had 24 to 48 hours to live and was about to be put on this pathway. I was only told about the plan when I went over to see the nurses to ask for painkillers for my mum. I was so shocked to be told she was on some pathway. I told the doctor this was not going to happen.’

Rustie says the nightmare began when her mum was rushed to the hospital from her care home with a suspected chest infection.

She says she was later told the grandmother had only hours to live and she was not given food, liquid or painkillers because nurses stated she could not swallow.

Just 24 hours after being admitted, relatives say they were told Mrs Edwards was being put on a Supportive Care Pathway (SCP).

It is based on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), which is designed to ease the suffering of the terminally ill in their final hours. But some families claim their relatives have been put on the LCP without their knowledge or permission – with a number making recoveries.

The SCP includes cutting back medication and is also for end-of-life care, but is not deemed as harsh as the LCP.

Within hours of Mrs Edwards being admitted to Birmingham City Hospital, Rustie says she was told her mother had just 48 hours to live, due to heart and kidney failure. Right: with Rustie’s cousin Elaine Wray

It is currently being used in several wards at hospitals run by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, including City Hospital.

Rustie told how she and other relatives had rushed to the hospital to see her sick mother, who went on to make a dramatic improvement.

‘She was on oxygen, a drip and a machine was draining liquid off her lungs,’ she said.

‘I was told she was unable to eat or swallow. However, when she came round I asked her if she was hungry and she said ‘yes’.

‘I got a yoghurt from the nurses and fed it to her. She ate it quite easily and looked as though she could have polished off a lot more at the time.

‘I stayed with her until 2am, while a cousin spent the night with her in the room.

‘By the morning she was a lot brighter. I told my son to go and get her some food. He came back with sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt drinks, which she happily ate and drank.

‘Afterwards she seemed so much better and was even singing and dancing in her bed.

‘She had improved by 95 per cent and we definitely didn’t think she was at death’s door. She was back to her usual self.’

But Rustie was left shocked by what she was allegedly told next.

‘I was massaging her foot and she said it was hurting. I said I’d go and sort out some painkillers for her,’ she said.

‘The nurses told me that she couldn’t have any more tablets as she couldn’t swallow, but she would be put on morphine and another drug when her pain became really bad.

‘I couldn’t understand why they were saying that as mum was so much better. That’s when a nurse told me they were putting her on a care pathway. I had never heard of this before.’

The doctor was called and Mrs Edwards’ care was discussed again with Rustie and a family member.

The former breakfast TV star said: “I told the doctor how mum was feeling better after we had fed her, but again I was told she was being put on a pathway.

‘I said the family did not want her to be put on this pathway and that we wanted her back at her home, as we were not ready for her to die. We were so terrified and frightened for her, that we didn’t leave her side.’

In fact just a few hours later, on October 15, Mrs Edwards was moved to a ward and was no longer in a critical condition.

‘My mum was not in so much pain that she was reeling about on the bed needing morphine,’ said Rustie. ‘She may have been quite ill when she was admitted, but she drastically improved and there was no need to put her on a pathway.’

She added: ‘We should not be allowing hospitals to put people on a pathway if they are not critically ill. By the time my mum was discharged she could walk around and was eating fine.’

A City Hospital spokeswoman said: ‘The Supportive Care Pathway does not mean that patients are not fed or actively treated; it is a high standard of care for people with a life-limiting illness, which has been tailor-made for use in our hospitals and the community.

‘It is designed to meet a patient’s individual needs and ensures the care we give is focused on relieving symptoms and meeting a patient’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Mrs Edwards was very ill when she was admitted to our Medical Assessment Unit.

‘She was put on the Supportive Care Pathway and this was explained to her family.

‘Our records show that she was offered food to eat at this time. When we became aware of the family’s concerns regarding the pathway, she was taken off at their request.

‘Mrs Edwards was transferred to another ward for her recovery where a senior sister and doctor again spoke to Eugenie’s family to further explain the pathway and reassure them.

‘We are sorry to hear that Mrs Edwards’ family were unhappy with aspects of her care.

‘Our aim is to address concerns when they happen, however, if the family feel they would like more clarification we are more than happy for them to contact us to discuss this further.’

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