Compensation for poor end of life care at West Cumberland Hospital

When our elderly loved ones are nearing the end of their lives and in hospital suffering from poor health, we all want them to receive good, caring and compassionate medical treatment. Sadly in a case recently settled by Price Slater Gawne’s David Dawson that is not always the case and the family of an elderly woman from Cleator Moor who died in West Cumberland Hospital in late 2012 have been compensated for failings in her treatment.

Poor end of life care is often in the news. In February the BBC reported that an estimated 48,000 people each year experience poor care when dying. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35660471). The wife of our client was one such person. She had had a serious stroke towards the end of 2012 and spent the last months of her life in West Cumberland Hospital.

Throughout her stay in hospital, her family repeatedly expressed concerns to the staff about the poor management of her condition, inadequate nutrition and pain relief. She suffered from coeliac disease and type 1 diabetes. At home, she was able to keep her diabetes under control but unfortunately that was not the case whilst she was in hospital and she suffered from many hypoglycaemic attacks. Her condition deteriorated after she contracted norovirus whilst in the hospital and unfortunately she passed away over the Christmas period 2012/2013.

Initially her family complained to the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust (in charge of West Cumberland Hospital) about the treatment she had received. The investigation of the complaint took a very long time but eventually almost 15 months after her death the Trust acknowledged that there had been deficiencies in her care. The family then instructed Price Slater Gawne’s David Dawson to purse a compensation claim. A report from a specialist in elderly medicine confirmed that her care was poor and that had contributed to her death.

Despite the findings of the complaint the claim was resisted. Claims of this type are very stressful for the family members left behind, and yet even though the complaint investigation recognised some (but not all) of the problems with her care, it was not until after Court proceedings had been started by David that a settlement was finally negotiated. The family has received compensation for the pain and distress she suffered during the final months of her life, along with the payment of their legal costs.

This has also been reported in the Whitehaven News