Family demands inquiry into hospital treatment

Justina Shanks and William Dick, who suffered from serious bed sores during his hospital stay
Justina Shanks and William Dick, who suffered from serious bed sores during his hospital stay
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A distraught family claim their elderly great-uncle was left in pain and ignored by staff in a dirty hospital ward.

Relatives of William Dick are demanding answers from NHS Forth Valley about why “a sweet old gentleman” received such poor care in Stirling Royal Infirmary.

William was 88 when he died in Falkirk Community Hospital on March 27 this year, but had endured weeks of agony from bed sores which a nurse told his devastated family were “totally avoidable”.

Great-niece Tina Skinner said: “It was awful. He was in great pain and despite us constantly telling the staff about his poor circulation, he wasn’t given an air mattress.

“By the time we saw them when he was in Falkirk, the sore on his left foot was about the size of the palm of my hand, with the one on the right slightly smaller. I asked if he might lose his foot and was told it was a possibility.”

A former miner, William had originally been taken in to hospital on January 27 from his home in Elphinstone Crescent, Airth, after complications following the removal of the nail bed on his right big toe which eventually had to be amputated.

Tina (46), of Carronshore, said: “The wound did not heal and he was in immense pain so they re-admitted him to Ward 24 in Stirling. After three days he was moved into a single room and he repeatedly told us he was in pain.

“When we spoke to staff they said he had never told them, but he said he had. One of the main faults in this ward was lack of continuity of care. The nurses changed so much that I did not get to know any of them. They were agency nurses, nurses from other wards and, quite frankly, some nurses that don’t deserve to be nurses.”

William’s relatives said he was also upset at being left in a hospital surgical gown and not allowed to wear pyjamas.

Tina added: “We would find him sitting in a chair, with only this gown on, his legs bare and not even a blanket over them. He would be in a draught from the open door and no-one cared.”

William was a patient in Stirling Royal Infirmary on February 15 when it received a surprise visit from watchdogs, the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate. Their review of the cleanliness of the building was scathing, something his family confirmed.

Tina said: “He was in the high dependency unit and there were incontinence pads in some areas of the corridor outside soaking up rainwater.

“I asked if I could close the window in his room as the blinds were blowing about so much – and was told they were closed.”

The day of his funeral on April 5, William’s devoted sister, Justina Shanks (90) died in Forth Valley Royal Hospital after suffering a stroke. Initially admitted to Stirling Royal on January 30, she had been moved three days later to Larbert.

Her family said the difference in treatment was massive and, despite being paralysed down one side and unable to move for two months, she had no bed sores.

However, their family was shocked that despite staff knowing they were visiting the two wards, they were never told William had contracted the potentially life-threatening bug MRSA.

The family had sent a detailed five-page letter of complaint to the health board listing all the areas of concerns, including an elderly, deaf man being left in a room where the only TV was high on the wall and no remote control for him to turn up the volume.

They also say that, although they had been bringing in food for weeks to try to get him to eat and build up his strength, because he did not like the menu offerings, staff eventually told them that he could have been having whatever he wanted to eat, and only had to ask.

The relatives also suffered the trauma of William’s body being removed from the funeral parlour by order of the Procurator Fiscal as his sudden death was being investigated. They then had the ordeal of formally identifying his body and giving statements to police.

Tina said: “We’ve not been told that investigation has been dropped. My gran and great-uncle lived together all his life and spent almost the same period of time in hospital.

“But their treatment was worlds apart. Gran was looked after so well and my poor great-uncle’s treatment was a disgrace.

“We look back now and wish we had complained more and feel we let him down. We’re raising it now because we don’t want another family to go through this.”

Professor Angela Wallace, Director of Nursing for NHS Forth Valley said: “This is a very serious complaint which raises a number of issues regarding patient care and treatment. We are committed to fully investigating all of these issues and taking any action that may be required.

“In the meantime, I have offered to meet with the family to discuss the concerns that they have raised.”