Changes have been made on a hospital ward following a mother’s complaint about how her son was treated in the days leading to his death at Bradford Royal Infirmary.
Mary Womersley is hoping the investigation into his care will lead to more dignity being given to patients in their final days.
Aaron Womersley died last April, aged 37, from kidney failure. He had spent a month in the hospital from the end of February suffering with jaundice and abdominal pain due to his advanced liver disease and was readmitted on April 15, before his death on April 22.
“Whether you’re two or 102, whether you’re dying from cancer or because you’ve been in an accident, in your last days you should have care and dignity,” said Mrs Womersley, a family support worker.
In May, Mrs Womersley, of Wrose, Shipley, contacted Bradford Teaching Hospitals to complain about several issues. She believed her son should not have been discharged in March, that nurses on the ward should have been told the family had been allowed unlimited visiting, that staff should not have tried to move Mr Womersley from a private side room in his final hours and that nurses should not have insisted on changing him on the morning relatives were told he was going to die – meaning the family was out of the room when he died.
Mrs Womersley was also upset at how long it took for her son’s body to be released – eight days. She was told the delay was because a doctor who could sign a form was on a course.
There were also concerns about the implementation of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) – a national system designed for patients nearing death – and why Mr Womersley was not placed on the intensive care unit.
“It was the way he was treated. The way we were treated as a family, it was absolutely awful and that’s why I complained to them,” the 57-year-old said.
On April 16, Mr Womersley’s family was told relatives could have unlimited visiting as he was nearing the end of his life. “But the number of nurses that came up and said ‘visiting’s over, you’ve got to leave’ or asked why we were there when visiting hadn’t started,” Mrs Womersley said.
“One even said, ‘I’m sorry to spoil your fun, but visiting’s over. What’s fun about spending time with someone who’s dying?
“There’s a simple way to make sure staff know. I suggested they put a yellow sticker on a patient’s notes.”
Mr Womersley, who lived with his partner of 20 years in Shipley and was a father-of-four, became ill in December 2012 and was told the following month that his liver was failing.
The most distressing experience came on the morning of April 22, Mrs Womersley said.
“At 6am we were told to call in the rest of the family because he was going to die that morning. At 8.20am they sent a nurse to change him, but he didn’t want changing,” she said. “And when we left the room, he died. We missed it and he died by himself. That’s what hurts the most. We were there day and night, but not when he died.”
In October, an action plan was drawn-up for ward six which detailed improvements to be made following Mrs Womersley’s complaints.
It addressed the lack of clear communication regarding the Liverpool Care Pathway and visiting, the delay in releasing Mr Womersley’s body and said relatives should not have been approached about being moved from a single side room when he was dying.
Mrs Womersley has been told about what changes have been made, including the introduction of staff communication and end of life training sessions, a leaflet about unlimited visiting and specialist palliative care team support on ward six rounds. The Trust now also asks families about their experiences to further improve the support offered.
Chief Nurse Juliette Greenwood said: “I would again like to reiterate our sincere condolences to Mrs Womersley on the death of her son, Aaron.
“We have taken Mrs Womersley’s concerns seriously and have completed all of the actions which were put in place to address the issues she raised and would be happy to meet with her again to discuss these.
“We would like to reassure Mrs Womersley that we act on all complaints and we are committed to using this feedback for the improvement of our services to patients and their families.”