Denny family's plea after dementia patient died days after fall from her hospital bed
Euphemia Bowman’s loved ones say the pensioner was repeatedly placed into a single room over a seven-week period after being admitted to the Larbert hospital on August 15, 2017 with suspected urosepsis – despite the family urging staff to keep her in an open ward due to her condition.
They insisted Euphemia, known as Phamie, would be unable to use a buzzer to contact nurses in an emergency and would “habitually” try to go to the toilet on her own.
The Bowmans’ fear was realised in September 2017 when she fell and broke her hip and shoulder.
Having fallen in her kitchen two days before the first of the four occasions Phamie was admitted to FVRH’s Acute Assessment Unit, the family urged doctors to check her for a urinary tract infection as she’d lost her balance, but say this wasn’t done.
She died on September 7, 2017, four days after her hospital fall.
Her death certificate listed bilateral pneumonia as directly leading to death due to, or as a consequence of, a fracture of the femur of the neck due to, or as a consequence of, a fall.
In December 2017, Angela Wallace, NHS FV nurse director, wrote to Phamie’s daughter, Gail.
She said: “I offer you and your family an unreserved apology for the experience your mother had as a patient of NHS Forth Valley and the impact this has had on you all.
“It has been identified that the care your mother received has fallen below the high expected standard we set for our patients. I apologise unreservedly for this and fully uphold your complaint.”
The family had taken legal action against NHS Forth Valley before proceedings were halted by the pandemic, meaning the Bowmans could no longer do so as the three-year limitation period passed in 2020.
A report by Anthony Palmer, Expert Witness Institute specialist, referenced a “fundamental failure by the nursing staff to put in place reasonable measures aimed at preventing Mrs Bowman falling on the morning of September 3, 2017”.
Gail, dad Alec, 81, and siblings Mary and Alec Jr spoke out in the hope of preventing other families from experiencing the anguish they suffered.
Gail said: “My mother was everything to everyone in our family.
“We never felt anything was taken as seriously as it should’ve been because, every time she was admitted, we asked for her not to be in a side room.
“Angela Wallace said my mother was put into a single room because she was neutropenic.”
The condition occurs when you have too few neutrophils, a type of white blood cells which are important for fighting certain infections, especially those caused by bacteria.
She added: “For the first six weeks, the single room she was put into was nothing to do with being neutropenic because she kept getting discharged.
“I want the hospital to realise they can’t put dementia patients in single rooms, especially when they’re told on several occasions the person can’t work a buzzer.
“What we had to witness with the pain she was in was horrific.”
An NHS FV spokeswoman said: “We carried out an internal investigation in 2017 and shared the findings with the family at this time.
“Staff also met with the family on a number of occasions to discuss the findings and respond to their questions and requests for additional information.
“The investigation identified a number of failings, particularly in relation to risk assessment, staff communication and observation. We apologised to the family for these failings and a number of changes and improvements were put in place at the time to prevent similar issues from happening again.
“These include ensuring staff have detailed information about each patient’s mobility needs and risk of falls which is shared during shift handovers, introducing new falls champions on our wards and strengthening education and training on falls prevention.
“We would like to take this opportunity to again offer our apologies and encourage the family to get in touch so that we can address any further questions or concerns they may have.”