Wymondham family’s concerns over treatment delays at Norwich hospital

The family of a Norfolk woman who died at a Norwich hospital have raised concerns about delays in her treatment for a perforated bowel.

Carolyn Ann South was initially admitted to hospital with a broken shoulder and underwent an operation.

But it was while recuperating at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital that she is believed to have suffered a perforated bowel due to a pre-existing medical condition, an inquest heard yesterday.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, but added: 'Although I pronounce that verdict, I do understand fully the anxieties and concerns expressed by the members of the family and understand fully their concerns that once the perforation had been detected she should have been got to the theatre more quickly.'

The 61-year-old, from Orwell Close, Wymondham, fell and broke her shoulder while out walking on March 6, was admitted to hospital on March 10, and underwent an operation to replace her shattered humerus on March 15.

She was kept in for observation following the operation, as a blood test showed she had a slightly higher than normal amount of white blood cells, which can be a sign of infection following an operation.

The shop assistant started to complain of pains in her abdomen on March 17 and underwent a CT scan at around 9.30pm on March 18, but it was not until 6am the next day that she was operated on, because there two other patients needing the same procedure who were prioritised ahead of her case.

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Following the operation to remove part of her colon, the mother-of three remained in a critical condition and died on March 24.

A post mortem found the cause of death as acute septicaemia, due to acute peritonitis, due to a perforated sigmoid colon, due to diverticular disease, with the recent fracture of her humerus as a contributory factor.

The inquest heard how there was 'probably 48 hours or there abouts' between the perforation and the surgery, and in cases of perforated bowel the sooner the patient is operated on, the better their chances of survival.

Dr Simon Fletcher, a consultant in anaesthetics and critical care, told the inquest that if Ms South had been discharged after her shoulder operation, she could have been back in A&E and got her surgery 12 hours earlier, but he acknowledged there was no way of knowing if this would have happened.

Paul McInally, Ms South's partner of more than 10 years said: 'All this comes down to as far as I'm concerned is the delay in getting treatment for Carolyn.'

Miss South's daughter-in-law Ria South said: 'We thought we had left Carolyn in hospital and the best place for her. What confuses me is if we had taken her home that day she could have been seen quicker.'

Speaking after the inquest, Mr McInally said he would be looking to bring legal action against the hospital.

In a statement the N&N's medical director Krishna Sethia said: 'We would like to offer our sincere condolences to Ms South's family. It is important that we always look carefully at what we can learn from any death in hospital. We would be happy to meet the family if they wish to do so.'

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.