NHS trust admits ‘things were missed’ which led to the death of a Polegate woman

An ‘exceptionally kind and caring’ woman from Polegate died from a fall in Eastbourne DGH.
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Barbara Barker, 72, a carer from Dymchurch Close, died on May 20 last year due to a fall in the hospital toilets a few weeks prior, an inquest heard.

An inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall on Thursday (February 11), heard that Ms Barker was anaemic and suffered from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

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Ms Barker was receiving regular treatment and chemotherapy, the inquest heard.

Eastbourne Town Hall (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190425-155105008Eastbourne Town Hall (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190425-155105008
Eastbourne Town Hall (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190425-155105008

She arrived at the hospital on April 2 and fell in the toilets on April 7, which caused a small pool of blood to form on her brain – a haematoma.

In the weeks that followed Ms Barker remained in hospital and the haematoma worsened, according to consultant neurosurgeon Dr Tony Elias.

He said it was decided she would have emergency haematoma evacuation surgery, known to be high risk, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital on May 14.

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Despite the surgery, Ms Barker’s condition worsened and it was decided she would return to the DGH on May 19 with the focus turning to her comfort and withdrawing treatment. Ms Barker died the following day.

Lloyd Barker, Ms Barker’s son, said, “She was an exceptionally kind and caring person and her family were everything to her.”

He said his mother had suffered with anxiety ever since being diagnosed with myeloma in 2018 and ‘she deteriorated mentally and physically’ because of her health problems.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said the risk assessment ‘fell down’, the fall should have been ‘noted more’ and ‘a much better job could have been done’.

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However, he added, “The surgery was appropriate, re-bleeding after surgery caused death and you can’t have the benefits of the surgery without accepting the risks. Any improvements that can be made obviously should be.”

Chloe Howath, from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said, “Her risk of fall should have been medium but it was low. The extent of the head injury wasn’t known and things were missed that should have been picked up.

“Improvements have been made. They’ve done as much as they can. It doesn’t take away what happened but they’ve made sure staff are learning.”

Mr Craze ruled that Ms Barker’s death was accidental.

He said, “The thing that triggered everything was the fall where she banged her head and the deterioration, because of the bleed, was slow but without the fall none of this would have happened.

“This is wholly accidental, there was frailty that led to it but it was accidental.”