Hospital discharge preceded death of stroke victim

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

NINE WEEKS after Reginald Airey suffered a stroke at the age of 77, in September last year, doctors at Leeds General Infirmary decided he no longer needed hospital care and should be discharged to a private nursing home.

Anxious about his paralysis, continuing poor health and painful bed sores, his daughter Glenys Riddell disagreed. But despite her reservations, the doctors told her a private home could cope.

But within three months her father was dead, his body weakened, undernourished and infected with virulent pressure sores. A post-mortem examination showed the cause of death was broncho-pneumonia with 'immobility and pressure ulcers' on his heel and the base of his spine a secondary cause.

Mrs Riddell blames both Leeds General Infirmary and the nursing home

and is taking legal action against the home. Because Mr Airey had a few thousand pounds in savings and shares, his pounds 95-a-week pension had to be paid towards the cost of the home while social services contributed another pounds 180. Mrs Riddell made up the pounds 20-a-week shortfall.

But despite initial assurances from the home about the care her father would receive Mrs Riddell was concerned from the start. In hospital, while in bed, nurses turned him over every four hours, to minimise pressure sores. But in the nursing home, at first, he spent all day in a wheelchair which was too small. He was unable to move himself and staff did not shift his position so that the pressure sores on his body were constantly aggravated. Within days they were bleeding and infected.

By the time he was transferred to hospital as an emergency, on the orders of his GP, the sores had become black. Doctors at the Wharfedale General Hospital in Otley, West Yorkshire, said that if he lived, he would have to spend up to four months in hospital. Mrs Riddell is bitter about her father's fate. 'I am convinced that if he had stayed in hospital . . . he would still be alive.'

A spokesman for Leeds General Infirmary said: 'We believe the discharge was correct. In hospital he had four small pressure sores. At the time of discharge they were superficial and healing well.'

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