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Basildon hospital found to have failed patient with a learning disability
Monday 12 July 2010
Basildon University Hospital has been found guilty of numerous failures in the medical care and treatment of Lisa Sharpe, who had a severe learning disability. Lisa's mother Mary was supported by learning disability charity Mencap to make a complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman after she was dissatisfied with the care her daughter received before her death in 2004.
Lisa died two weeks after having a routine operation to insert a feeding tube into her small bowel, which medical staff had advised was a success. Lisa began to vomit bile, but her family felt their concerns about this were ignored for nine days. When Mrs Sharpe requested an x-ray, it was found that Lisa had pneumonia and her family was told she had only two hours to live. However, Lisa went on to suffer for days, her lungs eventually filling with fluid and suffocating her. At no point was she given any pain relief.
Mrs Sharpe believes Lisa's death might have been avoided and that she received poor treatment because of her disability. In the six years since her death, Lisa's family has been fighting to get the answers to why she died. It took until November 2008
to get an inquest and it has taken the ombudsman three years to complete the investigation.
The ombudsman found that the care and treatment provided to Lisa "fell significantly below a reasonable standard" and that the service failure in the nursing care she received "added to Lisa's suffering and to the distress of Mrs Sharpe and her family." The report highlighted failings in the following areas:
- A lack of appropriate assessment and plans
- A lack of basic nursing care
- A failure to manage Lisa's pain
- A failure by the Trust to have due regard to their obligations to Lisa under disability discrimination law
- A failure to take appropriate professional responsibility for Lisa
- A failure to support Mrs Sharpe and her family
Mary Sharpe said: "Lisa was a strong and beautiful young woman. I remember how she was laughing and smiling even on the way to the operating theatre. I trusted the hospital with my much-loved daughter but they left her fighting for breath and in terrible pain. It was like watching someone drown before your eyes.
I will never forget the awful way she suffered in her last days of life. It's awful to say, but my dog had a better death than my daughter."
Beverley Dawkins, Mencap's national officer for profound and multiple learning disability, said: "Lisa is one of four people with a severe learning disability Mencap knows to have died at Basildon Hospital. The ombudsman's report is damning - that doctors and nurses failed to provide Lisa with even basic medical and nursing care is unacceptable, and a sign of a wider indifference towards people with a learning disability within the NHS.
"We are pleased that the hospital has chosen to sign up to Mencap's Getting it right charter to ensure that people with a learning disability get the care and treatment they are entitled to. However, its progress can only be measured by what happens when the next person with a severe learning disability is cared for on one of its wards'.
For more information and to set up interviews, contact Amy Edmunds in the Mencap media team on 020 7696 6937 or 07770 656 659 if calling out of hours.
Notes to editors
- About Getting it right
Getting it right is Mencap's campaign to improve healthcare for people with a learning disability. People with a learning disability experience poorer health and poorer healthcare than the general population. Mencap has worked in partnership with a number of organisations to produce a charter for healthcare professionals, to help them work towards better health, wellbeing and quality of life for people with a learning disability.
- About Death by indifference
Mencap's Death by Indifference report, published in 2007, contained the stories of six people with a learning disability who died unnecessarily due to ignorance and neglect within the NHS. www.mencap.org.uk/deathbyindifference
- About Mencap
Mencap supports the 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK and their families and carers. Mencap fights to change laws, improve services and increase access to education, employment and leisure facilities, supporting thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they choose.
We are also the largest service provider of services, information and advice for people with a learning disability across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
See http://www.mencap.org.uk/ for more information.
- About learning disability
A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops before, during or shortly after birth. It is always lifelong and affects someone's intellectual and social development. It used to be called mental handicap but this term is outdated and offensive. Learning disability is not a mental illness.