Pensioner dies from sepsis after signs missed at Halifax hospital

Calderdale Royal Hospital
Calderdale Royal Hospital

A pensioner who showed symptoms of sepsis after visiting A&E at Calderdale Royal Hospital died just a week after being given the all clear to go home by doctors.

Shirley Hemingway, 77, died from the treatable condition seven days after being discharged from hospital with abdominal pain and sickness ailments.

An inquest found that doctors did not pass on her results to a surgical team - but instead discharged her despite later finding she had a small obstruction in her bowel.

The NHS staff failed to spot the red flag symptom of sepsis and have since apologised to the family - settling on an undisclosed sum.

Shirley’s daughter Dawn Hemingway pursued the negligence claim against Calderdale Royal Hospital - where she worked as a nurse herself for 36 years.

Dawn, 57, said: “Myself, the rest of our family and friends were all left devastated by losing mum.

“It is hard to read the Trust’s admissions without getting angry or frustrated by the fact they failed to provide mum with the correct care immediately.

“I worked in the National Health Service for over 36 years as a nurse at Calderdale Royal Hospital and during my career my colleagues and I always had patient safety as the number one priority.

“The standard of care in the NHS has to be 100 per cent at all times and sadly in my mum’s case it fell well short. The system completely failed her.

“While nothing can bring my mum back, I am determined to ensure lessons are learned by the NHS to make sure that this kind of incident does not happen again.”

Shirley had visited her GP due to abdominal pain and vomiting as he noted she was pale and suspected that she was suffering from constipation.

When the medication he prescribed to her failed to improve her condition two days later she attended Calderdale Royal Hospital, on January 13.

She collapsed at home and a diagnosis of intra-abdominal sepsis was made at hospital, but after suffering two cardiac arrests she died hours later on January 20.

An Inquest into Shirley’s death found that there was a clear history consistent with a small bowel obstruction with vomiting and constipation.

A medical expert at the hearing told the Coroner that Shirley should have been reviewed by the surgical team following the X-rays - rather than being discharged.

It was then up to Shirley’s hubby Peter Hemingway to instruct medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell. Peter died in 2015 and the claim was taken over by Dawn.

It is alleged that Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust had acted negligently by failing to identify the small bowel obstruction on the x-rays taken or the significance of the abnormal blood tests.

Ross McWilliams, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Shirley’s family have been left heartbroken after losing her.

“It has been an incredibly difficult time for Dawn to not only cope with losing her mother, and her father, but also come to terms with the fact that the hospital failed to treat Shirley correctly.

“There are very obvious red flag signs which were missed in this case and in many others we have seen from across the UK.

“Errors of this nature are simply unacceptable when it comes to matters of life and death.

“We will continue to work with the family to ensure lessons are learnt from this case and that patient safety is improved to prevent other patients and families going through what Dawn and the family have sadly had to go through.”