Anger as Cross Heath patient Margaret Williams dies in end-of-life programme
THE family of an elderly cancer patient are demanding to know why they were not told their loved-one was being allowed to die at an NHS hospital.
Margaret Williams was placed on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) – which is meant for patients close to death – just two days after arriving at Haywood Hospital for respite care.
But her partner John Simmonds and daughters say they were not told about the programme until Margaret was already heavily sedated.
The 79-year-old died at the Burslem hospital less than a week later.
Now Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, which runs Haywood Hospital, is looking into the case after receiving a formal complaint.
Margaret, of Mill Rise, Cross Heath, was diagnosed with bone cancer last year and admitted to the Haywood on August 7.
Mr Simmonds, who had been caring for her since her diagnosis, said he was shocked at how quickly she deteriorated after arriving at the hospital.
The 80-year-old, of Mill Rise, below, said: “I’d been taking care of her for 10 months since she was diagnosed with cancer and she was never in a coma throughout that time.
“In the first two days she was at the Haywood she was eating and drinking.
“But then suddenly she was in a semi-coma. I asked a nurse what had happened and they said she had been put on life-ending drugs.
“I’m convinced that if she hadn’t gone to the Haywood she wouldn’t have died when she did.”
Under the LCP, dying patients’ care becomes focussed on easing their suffering rather than prolonging their life.
Proposed changes to the NHS Constitution would tighten up the rules over placing patients on the LCP, making it necessary for hospitals to consult relatives beforehand.
Margaret’s daughter Pat Lloyd believes it is only right that relatives are involved in such an important decision.
Mrs Lloyd, aged 60, of Blythe Bridge, said: “We should have been told. We never even got the chance to say goodbye properly, because she was in a semi-coma until she died. They should change the rules – I’m sure we can’t be the only people who have gone through this.
“We only took mum to the Haywood because we were told she wasn’t close enough to death to go to the Douglas Macmillan Hospice.
“We thought she would just be there for a week, and then a place would be found for her in a home. If we knew she was going to die in a week we would have taken her straight to the Dougie Mac.
“Generally, I don’t have an issue with the care she received at the Haywood and we know mum was very ill.
“But we should have been told what was happening to her.”
Siobhan Heafield, director of nursing and quality at the trust, said Margaret’s family should have been told about any decision to place her on the LCP.
She said: “We want to ensure that each and every patient receives dignified care in the last hours and days of their life and the Liverpool Care Pathway is an important way of achieving this.
“However I am concerned to hear about any case where a patient’s family may not have been properly involved.
“This should not happen and we are investigating the complaints made by Margaret Williams’s family.”