Stoke Mandeville Hospital has been criticised for putting patients’ lives at risk after a 79-old dementia sufferer was allowed to walk out of the building at lunchtime before her body was discovered in a ditch a few hundreds away the next day.
Violet Burton, who one insider described as a “known wanderer”, died, apparently of hypothermia, just hours after she went missing from the Buckinghamshire hospital on Monday.
She was seen by a member of staff wearing a cream and purple cardigan and dark trousers leaving the Medicines for Older People area on Ward 8, but was not stopped despite her history and the unseasonably cold weather, according to a hospital source.
Thames Valley Police said they were “very concerned” for her welfare and appealed for information about the missing pensioner, known as Vi Ann, only to find her body on Tuesday a quarter of a mile away. Her family has been informed. Police said formal identification was due to take place and that the death was being treated as unexplained but not suspicious.
Stoke Mandeville, run by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said it had launched an internal review into the incident.
The hospital is still reeling from last month’s independent investigation into abuse carried out by Jimmy Savile. The report found that the BBC DJ had sexually abused more than 50 people on site, including staff, patients and visitors with the youngest victim an eiight-year-old.
It also revealed 10 complaints had been made about Savile while he was working at the hospital but that no action was taken. The report also discovered that three doctors had been convicted of sex crimes against their patients over the last four decades.
The Care Quality Commission’s latest report on Stoke Mandeville gave it an overall rating “requires improvement”. Among the June 2014 report’s conclusions were that although “staff were caring and compassionate and treated patients with dignity and respect” the support for patients living with dementia or who may have a learning disability was “inconsistent”.
The hospital source told the Independent: “[Vi Ann’s death] couldn’t have happened at a worse time. The CQC had issues that they were concerned about so they’ve come back for a short-notice visit and one of the things they’re looking at is patient safety. The hospital still has serious problems.
“People at the top are going to blame the people further down as they did with Jimmy Savile. Staff morale is extremely low, partly due to the Saville problems and partly because of the senior management. They’ve written a laughable blog about what a wonderful job we’re doing as a trust, when everyone knows we’re stumbling.”
The source said there have been “numerous patients” going missing on wards with not enough being done to improve the situation. “We need properly secure wards, it’s not very easy to get into the wards but very easy to get out. In one ward they put a piece of paper over the exit button to try and disguise it, that’s how ridiculous the situation is – you should have to swipe in and out and the doors not to be locked open.”
Carolyn Morrice, Chief Nurse of the trust, said in a statement: “We have been extremely saddened to hear of this news and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Mrs Burton’s family at this very difficult time. We do not currently have any further information; we are being kept informed by and are working closely with the police. We are also undertaking our own internal review.”Reuse content