Dying woman suffered ‘avoidable pain’ at East Sussex hospital

A terminally-ill woman suffered ‘avoidable pain and sickness’ when nursing staff failed to respond quickly enough.

Conquest Hospital, Hastings. SUS-150615-132724001
Conquest Hospital, Hastings. SUS-150615-132724001

The woman in her 20s regularly asked for more pain relief while being given palliative chemotherapy.

On Wednesday, the ‘inadequate’ end of life care at East Sussex Healthcare Trust was highlighted in a Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report.

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Investigators intervened when a mother who complained to the Ombudsman felt nursing staff were ‘uncaring and dismissive’ of her daughter’s pain.

She said her daughter did not get medicine to prevent sickness after her chemotherapy.

For confidentiality reasons, the mother and daughter are referred to only as ‘Mrs R’ and ‘Miss R’ in the report.

The report said: “She [Miss R] went to A&E with severe pain. Staff gave her pain relief and discharged her home the same day.

“Miss R was admitted to hospital a few days later because her condition had got worse and her pain was uncontrolled. Staff gave her palliative chemotherapy, which made her severely sick.

“The ward doctor said Miss R had not been given the anti sickness medication she should have had after the chemotherapy. Miss R continued to be in pain and regularly asked for more pain relief.”

Miss R later died in hospital as a result of her cancer.

The ombudsman found there were times when staff did not respond quickly enough and said Miss R suffered ‘avoidable’ pain and sickness before her death.

Alice Webster, director of nursing, said: “Following the outcome of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s review we wrote to Mrs R to offer our sincere apologies for our failure to adequately manage her daughter’s pain relief and anti-sickness medication and for the distress this caused at such a worrying and difficult time.

“We have addressed the recommendations set out in the Ombudsman’s report. We place a high value on effective pain management and this is a priority for both medical and nursing staff.”

“The trust provides clinical guidelines and training to support staff to undertake effective pain management.

“The frequency of pain assessment should be individualised according to a patient’s care needs, and is always undertaken in conjunction with observations.

“We now also undertake essential care rounds at a minimum of two hourly intervals, designed to ensure that a patient’s essential care needs, including pain, are assessed frequently.”

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