Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Nursing chiefs have launched a probe into how patients’ next of kin are notified after staff failed to tell a family their dying relative was in hospital.
Terry Raper, 66, died at the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital on September 23, but staff waited eight days before telling his family he had been admitted.
The delay meant Mr Raper’s sisters could not get to his bedside before he died.
His brother Tony Lee, 48, who works at RAF Marham, made it to the hospital from his King’s Lynn home hours before his brother’s death, but his sisters Jane, Sarah and Susan did not.
The retired bricklayer was taken to hospital on September 14 after a fall at his flat in Markham Tower in Mile Cross. He was then moved on September 17 to Langley ward, before being taken to Hethel ward on September 20.
The hospital’s chief executive, Anna Dugdale, said the acting director of nursing was now reviewing the hospital’s policy around informing the next of kin.
She apologised for the error and said it was caused by a “breakdown in communication” between wards.
Mrs Dugdale added that the wards all thought somebody else had told Mr Raper’s family he was in hospital.
His next of kin details were checked on September 15, but Mrs Dugdale said staff at the hospital’s Acute Medical Unit (AMU) did not contact the patient’s next of kin unless they were asked to.
When Mr Raper was transferred to Langley ward, staff did not ask him if he wanted them to contact his family.
Another chance was missed on September 18, when he had a fall on the ward.
The hospital broke its own policy by not telling the family that Mr Raper was in the ward and had a fall.
Two days later on September 20, doctors’ notes show Mr Raper asked for his family to be told he was in hospital, but they were not.
His brother was finally contacted on September 22, but only after Mr Raper had another fall after moving to Hethel ward.
In a letter to Mr Raper’s sister Susan, Mrs Dugdale said: “I hope that it is some small comfort to know that the procedure is being reviewed.”
But Mr Lee, a father-of-three said the letter was of no comfort.
“If my brother had not had a fall in Hethel ward the family would have never known he had been admitted into hospital,” he said.
He added that the hospital should have an external review into how it notifies the next of kin.