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Stafford Hospital neglect contributed to death of pensioner, coroner rules

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: May 01, 2014

By Alison Thomas

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NEGLECT by Stafford Hospital contributed to the death of a Cannock pensioner, a coroner has ruled.

It was likely that 78-year-old Mavis Capewell would have survived a severe stomach upset if the hospital had realised she was suffering from kidney failure caused by dehydration, South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh said.

But it was more than four hours after she was admitted to Stafford Hospital on July 13 last year before a blood test was taken, the inquest heard. And the results, showing renal failure and high potassium levels, were not spotted by a doctor until the early hours of the next morning. By this time it was too late to save Mrs Capewell, and she died at 2.15am on July 14

But it was more than four hours after she was admitted to Stafford Hospital on July 13 last year before a blood test was taken, the inquest heard. Nurses struggled to take blood from her, and a specialist nurse had to be called to do a blood test.

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Then the test results, showing high potassium levels and kidney failure, were not spotted by a doctor until the early hours of the next morning. By this time it was too late to save Mrs Capewell, and she died at 2.15am on July 14 2013.

Mr Haigh said the blood test problems amounted to a failure in basic care.

"A blood test was a really basic part of treatment," he said. He added that he had not identified any individual gross failure of care but the overall series of delays in taking the test and assessing the results "make it proper to describe it as gross failure."

Mr Haigh said he would not be writing to Stafford Hospital about the case, as he had already received assurances from the hospital that it was implementing an action plan to deal with the issues identified in how the pensioner was treated.

He concluded that the death of Mrs Capwell, of Rigby Drive, Chadsmoor, was due to natural causes, to which neglect contributed.

The inquest was told that Mrs Capewell, a grandmother and the mother of 15 children, was referred to Cannock Hospital by an out-of-hours GP on July 13, suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhoea, probably due to a virus.

She was transferred to Stafford Hospital by ambulance and admitted just before 4pm that afternoon. But it was 8.25pm before a blood test was finally done, and the findings were not picked up by a doctor until around an hour before her death.

A pathologist found that death was due to cardiac arrhythmia, acute renal failure, dehydration, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Mr Haigh said he did not believe there were any individual instances of gross failures of care, but overall the delays in doing the blood test and analysing the results added together “make it proper to describe it as gross failure,” he said.

He expressed his “sincere sympathies” to Mrs Capewell’s family.

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