Former land girl Joan Wood was 'starved' in hospital after hip replacement

Joan Wood, 83, died from infection after being left without a feeding tube for 10 days, inquest told

A former land girl succumbed to a fatal post-operative infection after a hospital forgot to properly install a feeding tube, an inquest heard yesterday.

Joan Wood, an 83-year-old pensioner who served in the Women's Land Army during the Second World War, died in April last year after undergoing a hip replacement operation.

Her daughter Lori told a tribunal in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, yesterday that her mother was severely malnourished because she had not had anything to eat for 10 days before the operation at Northern General Hospital.

At the start of a two-day inquest the court was told that Mrs Wood – who was known to her friends as "Betty" – should have been fitted with a tube to help her feed but it never happened.

A pathologist and doctor both testified at the hearing that malnutrition might have hindered the Mrs Wood's ability to recover from the infection which spread from the surgery wounds to her lungs. She eventually died of pneumonia.

Giving evidence at yesterday's hearing Lori Wood, 52, criticised the standard of care given to her mother who was first admitted to hospital at the beginning of January after fracturing a hip in a fall at a nursing home. She underwent hip replacement surgery and was later discharged.

But she had to return to hospital two months later when part of the replacement collapsed. Over the following two weeks doctors tried to solve the problem with pain relief and physiotherapy – while, her daughter says, her food and drink intake plummeted.

Surgeons eventually operated to remove her hip implant and clean the infected wound. But Mrs Wood, who had dementia, died on April 1 after infection spread to her lungs and caused her to develop pneumonia.

Her daughter, who lives in Sheffield, broke down as orthopaedic geriatrician Dr Philippa May described her mother's nutritional state prior to surgery as "poor".

Questioning the doctor in court, Lori Wood asked if staff shortages at the hospital could have prevented nurses from being able to feed all their patients on the ward.

Dr May said: "She was confused and agitated. Some days she would eat better than others, so it was hard to tell. There is a very high demand on nursing staff. There are a lot of elderly patients, and that is why they have feeding charts. I would find it difficult to comment on staff shortages."

Ms Wood replied: "She hadn't eaten for 10 days before that operation."

Dr Richard Gibson, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who treated Betty Wood after her second admission, said: "When a patient has difficulty with oral intake, a tube is one of the ways we give them food. I don't know why she was not given one."

The inquest continues.