Investigation launched after family ask: 'Why did Queen's Hospital put elderly mother on a Covid ward?'
- Credit: Charles Thomson
An east London hospital trust is investigating why a 92-year-old former NHS worker was placed on a Covid ward, where she caught Covid.
Shirley Everitt from Elm Park in Hornchurch said a "mistake" to place her mother Anne Kelly on a coronavirus ward meant she spent her final weeks alone and distressed, with her family banned from visiting.
She caught the virus on the ward and died from respiratory problems – but Covid-19 was not listed on her death certificate.
The Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) has confirmed that an investigation is underway.
“We appreciate this is a difficult time for Anne’s family and we are investigating the concerns they have raised about the care she received,” a spokesperson said.
The phantom test
Anne, a former seamstress who spent years making NHS uniforms, was transported to Queen’s Hospital by ambulance on February 13 with stomach pains.
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On February 15, Shirley said she received a call saying Anne had been admitted to a ward and she could visit – but when she arrived, she said: “I got a shock. It was all taped off as a closed Covid ward.”
When she queried why her mother had been placed on a Covid ward, she claimed she was told hospital staff had tested Anne for Covid-19 on February 1 and she had been positive.
But, said Shirley, Anne was not in hospital on February 1: “She was at home.”
According to Shirley and her daughter Danielle, staff later acknowledged that Anne's medical notes were wrong.
But when they asked whether Anne could be moved, they said staff refused due to a risk of cross-infection.
The result, said Shirley, was that Anne spent weeks with barely any visitors.
Shirley said she was not allowed in until February 17 and even then, only for 15 minutes.
After that, she wasn’t allowed back until February 21.
“Mum was really distressed because she couldn’t see us,” said Shirley. “She was seeing no one.”
When she did go to visit, Shirley said she saw things which concerned her.
“She’d got bedsores which weren’t being attended to,” said Shirley, alleging that when her mother called out for help, staff did not come.
Anne’s stomach pains were eventually attributed to pancreatitis, said Shirley, but after two weeks hospital staff told the family Anne was in decline and required end-of-life care.
Shirley says she asked whether that could be delivered at home and the hospital agreed.
On March 2, Shirley received a call from Queen’s to say Anne had contracted Covid-19, but she said staff claimed she was asymptomatic and could still come home.
She was delivered home by ambulance on March 4.
“When they wheeled her out, she was fighting for her life,” Shirley said. “She was fighting for her breath and she was clawing.”
When carers booked by the hospital arrived, Shirley said they told her Anne should not have been discharged and she would have to be returned to hospital.
Once Anne was back at Queen’s, Shirley said she received a call saying the family should come immediately as Anne was not expected to live.
But when they arrived, said Danielle: “They refused us. We weren’t allowed in because she had Covid.”
The family said they had to fight for access and were allowed in just in time for Anne to tell them she loved them before she died.
Her death was ascribed to pneumonia and Covid-19 was not mentioned on the certificate – something the family has queried.
“I’m not disputing that my mum would have died in time because her health was going down,” said Shirley.
“But she definitely wouldn’t have gone as quick... I strongly believe that if mum hadn’t been on the Covid ward, she would have come home.”
The Romford Recorder asked BHRUT whether it had yet discovered how the erroneous February 1 Covid test appeared in Anne’s notes but it did not answer.
It declined to comment on any of the family's specific complaints.