Family response to narrative verdict into Ruth Whitmore’s death

Scales of justice with a hazed background

The family of 91-year-old Ruth Whitmore have expressed their gratitude to the Coroner following the narrative verdict of HM Senior Coroner Ms Lake, at an Inquest at King’s Lynn Coroner’s Court.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Tim Deeming of Tees Law, said: “Mrs Whitmore’s family believe that their mum was let down by the very people who were meant to be caring for her. Whilst nothing can change what happened to her, the Trust and the NHS as a whole need to learn from this.

“The inquest has been extremely difficult for the family to get through. She was a much-loved mother and grandmother and no one should suffer as Mrs Whitmore and the family have suffered.”
The Inquest examined evidence and reviewed witness statements received from those involved in the tragic incident surrounding 91-year-old Ruth Whitmore. Mrs Whitmore died after sustaining a significant leg injury while receiving care at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn.

Mrs Whitmore was initially admitted to hospital on New Year’s Day 2018 after suffering breathlessness and was diagnosed with a lower respiratory tract infection and bilateral pulmonary emboli. The plan was for Mrs Whitmore to stay in hospital until her situation had improved and then to be discharged home. Over the following days, she was seen by a social worker and the discharge planning team and things were progressing well.

However, during the night of 6/7 January 2018 an incident occurred that doctors and Coroner have said contributed to her death. As Mrs Whitmore was being moved in her bed by staff her left leg became trapped in a bed rail and she suffered a traumatic knee injury. She advised the staff of this but the staff member did not stop and Mrs Whitmore was not provided with assistance. A member of staff the next morning noticed the injury and described it as: “A huge blister on her lower limb which was very painful.”

Over the following days, Mrs Whitmore required blood transfusions and surgical evacuation of the bleed and later developed an infection as well as hospital acquired pneumonia. She never regained her mobility after the incident and, following a further three months’ rehabilitation in hospital, began to deteriorate. The family were then forced to take the difficult decision of adopting a palliative approach to care and she passed away on 13 April 2018. 

Queen Elizabeth NHS Trust has admitted that: “Mrs Whitmore’s left leg was trapped in the bed rails by a member of staff transferring her onto a bed pan whilst an inpatient in January 2018. This should not have happened and the care provided fell below the standard to be expected.”

Tim Deeming, from Tees Law, also said:

The tragic incident at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn has left a whole family devastated. We are grateful that the Coroner has called for further steps to be considered by the hospital managers, taking into account how this incident arose, the inadequate investigation that took place by the hospital, which is accepted by them, and that it is of grave concern that the senior nurse in charge of the ward that night did not appreciate that she was in a leadership role. Such concerns, as already highlighted by the CQC report of September 2018, have to enable change to be undertaken proactively and promptly to ensure that patient safety is improved.

Mrs Whitmore’s family has specifically requested that the media does not contact them and have asked that any enquiries be directed to Tim Deeming.

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