East London hospital cleared of negligence

Coroners Court

Coroners Court - Credit: Archant

An east London hospital has been cleared of neglecting a Hackney resident before she died – although aspects of nursing care came under fire.

An inquest heard on Friday last week how 76-year-old Comfort Yabbey of Balls Pond Road, De Beauvoir, was admitted into hospital, where she died days later due to “natural disease”.

At Poplar Coroner’s Court, coroner Dr Richard Brittain said although there were “missed opportunities to fully address her nursing needs,” he was ultimately satisfied that despite these issues the care provided was not neglectful.

It follows outrage from Ms Yabbey’s family towards staff at Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel, during her care there in February.

The family criticised delays in providing adequate equipment, such as a pressure mattress to alleviate Ms Yabbey’s painful skin sores, and changing her dressings and clothes frequently.

But nurses at the inquest said she had been treated to best practice guidelines.

The family also accused doctors of “giving up” on their mother, refusing to resuscitate her or escalate her care to the intensive care unit.

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Dr Grace Walker, who had direct involvement in Ms Yabbey’s care, said: “My clinical impression was of someone who was very unwell.”

She said that doctors felt putting her in intensive care would be invasive and traumatic, as would resuscitation.

Dr Walker added: “That’s something that doesn’t often work, especially with older people and can be quite traumatic. With the severity of her infection and the fact she wasn’t responding to medication, as well as being unwell to start with diabetes and her previous strokes, we came to the decision to remove certain aspects of medical care.

“It became apparent that this was someone who may not survive and we tried to have those conversations with the family as soon as possible.

“When we feel like someone is getting to the end of their life, despite our best efforts, we make a decision on how best to keep their dignity.”

In his verdict, coroner Dr Brittain said Ms Yabbey’s ultimate cause of death was sepsis from her skin sores and it was clear she had background health problems.

He said there was significant dispute between the family and the Trust about the frequency of nursing.

Dr Brittain added that neglect meant gross failure to provide basic medical care and attention.

He said: “My feeling is that there have been some failures with regards to nursing care and these are difficult to establish because of lack of documentation.

“But that doesn’t amount to neglect.

“There have been attempts to address sores and infection which unfortunately have not been successful.”