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Call for urgent probe into ‘appalling’ rise in missing valuables reports at Queen’s Hospital

07:00 07 July 2014

Bertha Guymer

Bertha Guymer

Archant

“Appalling” figures have revealed that almost 50 patients and visitors have had jewellery go missing as they received treatment at Queen’s Hospital since 2011.

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell called for an “urgent investigation” after a Freedom of Information Act submitted by the Recorder revealed the scale of losses.

There have been 48 reports of lost, missing, or stolen jewellery from the hospital, according to the figures disclosed.

The number of reports made has risen year-on-year since 2011, when seven cases came to light.

Last year the number reported reached 18. So far this year there have been 11 reports.

Mr Rosindell condemned Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs the Rom Valley Way building.

He said: “It’s appalling. There’s a series of incidents and there needs to be an urgent investigation by BHRUT to find out what’s going on.

“It just gives people another reason not to want to go into Queen’s Hospital.”

A BHRUT spokesman insisted that the trust works hard to keep patients’ property safe and secure but said it is “impossible” to guarantee property is never at risk as patients and visitors are permitted access to wards.

But chief executive of national healthcare charity The Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, was shocked at the findings.

She said: “We are very saddened to hear the scale. We appreciate it’s difficult for hospital trusts to monitor and police jewellery, but trusts should be doing everything possible to let patients and relatives know they shouldn’t bring valuables with them.”

The trust spokesman insisted that patients are advised to keep valuables at home.

He added: “The trust’s security policy is being constantly reviewed and we are doing all we can to protect property.”

Robert Nicholls, 50, contacted the Recorder in June sparking the investigation.

His 94-year-old grandmother Bertha Guymer, of Hornchurch, had her wedding and engagement rings stolen from her fingers as she lay dying there in May, he claims.

On hearing the latest revelations, Mr Nicholls, of Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, said: “I’m not surprised at all. After the first instance, it should have been set upon and found out what was happening. To hear that there has been nearly 50 incidents – it’s ridiculous.”

He accepted how difficult it must be to ensure that belongings are secure in the hospital, but said “they are not going to find the jewellery now and the damage is already done”.

Other families contacted the Recorder after we reported Mrs Guymer’s loss to say similar losses had affected their loved ones:

Gladys Adams:

On Christmas Eve 1944, using a ring crafted by her brother, Gladys Adams married her sweetheart when he was on leave from the RAF.

But her ring was stolen overnight while she received treatment at Queen’s Hospital, her son Barry has claimed.

It was recorded that Mrs Adams, 89, was wearing the diamond solitaire, valued at £2,500, at 3am but when she went for tests at 7am it was gone, Mr Adams, 64, of Hainault Road, Romford, said.

Mr Adams said that it would have been “very difficult” to remove the ring because her fingers were swollen because of arthritis and she would never have taken it off because of the “sentimental value”.

The loss plagued Mrs Adams until she passed away in January.

Mr Adams said: “My mother remained distraught every day until she died about the fact someone may have stolen her ring – it absolutely broke her heart.”

He added that nurses at the time of the incident suggested that the rings may have been “lost in the laundry”.

Bertha Guymer:

Bertha Guymer would have been “devastated” if she knew she would be without her wedding and engagement rings when she died.

The 94-year-old had not removed the rings once during the 74 years since she married her late husband Robert while he was on leave during the Second World War.

The rings, as previously reported in the Recorder, went missing in May when she died at Queen’s Hospital.

An “extensive” but fruitless investigation into the “loss” of the rings was carried out by the trust and police who had received a “report of theft”.

Daughter Pat Nicholls, 71, of Hedingham Road, Hornchurch, said: “If she knew she would have died without the rings on her fingers, she would have been absolutely devastated about it.”

She added that if they were stolen, the jewellery would have to have been taken with force from her mother’s fingers, which were swollen with arthritis.

Victoria Kingsnorth:

The wedding ring of a 93-year-old patient’s deceased mother went missing along with her own two rings as she stayed at Queen’s Hospital. Rosa Kingsnorth, of Lake Rise, Romford, was checked into a ward in January last year wearing the three rings.

Granddaughter Victoria Kingsnorth, 30, of Romford, said; “The following day I noticed all the rings had vanished.”

She added that staff filled in a property form listing the rings but when she complained the form had “gone missing”.

Elizabeth McHugh:

On an 88-year-old woman’s hand were three diamond rings and two gold rings when she arrived at the hospital.

But when Elizabeth McHugh, of Dreywood Court, Gidea Park, was discharged in April last year she had just the gold pair.

Granddaughter Stacey McHugh, of Lindfield Road, Harold Hill, said: “It’s funny how the gold ones remained on her fingers.

“If there is a thief preying on the sick and dying elderly, that is disgusting.”

Miss McHugh, 33, said she did not report it to the police because she expected they had “more important” things to do and questioned how many others have not reported their losses.

Read more:

Rings ‘stolen’ from dying woman, 94 - widow would have been ‘devastated’ by loss

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