Catering assistant who served hospital for 25 years died after staff fail to treat her for sepsis

The daughter of a ‘lovely, patient and kind’ catering assistant who died following appalling failures at the hospital where she had worked for 25 years, says no amount of money could ever make up for the premature death of her mother after being awarded a five figure compensation settlement.

A&E staff at University Hospital Lewisham made a catalogue of errors when Lovetta Bailey was suffering from the deadly condition sepsis and wrongly discharged her home without treatment.

Two days later 63-year-old Lovetta, who was highly regarded by her colleagues in the catering team at the hospital, had died of multi organ failure caused by sepsis. Lovetta’s death was completely preventable if she had been admitted to hospital and treated with antibiotics. However warning signs were not acted on, a sepsis screening tool was not used and abnormal blood test results which revealed she needed antibiotics were wrongly reported as ‘normal’.

Following her October 2013 death, Lovetta’s daughter Christine Hamilton, who at the time held a position as a head of HR, and her son Roger Hamilton who works for Royal Mail, were so traumatised that between the two of them they could not return to work for over two years and had to move out of their home they had shared with their mother. They remain angry about the appalling way their mum was treated by hospital staff.

After seeing a television report about a similar case which had occurred at Lewisham Hospital the year before her mother’s death, Christine decided she wanted to hold the hospital to account and raise awareness of the consequences sepsis negligence can have. Christine, who lives in Forest Hill, London, contacted solicitors specialising in medical negligence at law firm JMW, who had dealt with the case she had heard about on television and also took on her case. After JMW’s involvement the hospital trust admitted negligence in December 2017 and specifically that a number of errors were made including:

  • A failure to appreciate the significance and act on abnormal observations which included low oxygen saturations and a high temperature and heart rate, all warning signs of sepsis.
  • Failing to escalate Lovetta’s care to a doctor or more senior nurse.
  • Failing to use the hospital’s screening tool for sepsis.
  • Wrongly discharging Lovetta when her blood test results were abnormal and IV antibiotics were indicated.

In July 2018 the trust also accepted that its failures had caused Lovetta’s death. It has now agreed to pay Christine and Roger a five figure compensation settlement however their primary motivation for legal action was to try to prevent any more deaths from a delay in diagnosis of sepsis.

Christine, who is now 52 and has returned to work as an interim HR consultant, said: “The impact of what happened has been completely devastating and I still find it very difficult to talk about. We were extremely close to our mother and everyone in the family loved her. She was everyone’s favourite sister and auntie because she was so kind and helpful and was a brilliant cook. Her extended family abroad, who were never far from her thoughts, were devastated by her death and her brothers, sister and nieces still hold fond memories of her.

“She really believed in Lewisham hospital and she had always worked very hard for them because high standards were very important to her in all areas of her life. My brother Roger and I were both born there. She had worked there for 25 years and everyone liked her. When we went to tell her colleagues she had passed away they couldn’t believe it as she had been in work just days earlier and they went to the hospital morgue so they could see for themselves. They were screaming and crying from the distress of her sudden death.    

“Bringing the case was never about money because absolutely nothing could make up for losing my mum. I needed to do something to try and stop any more families suffering as we have. My question to Lewisham is what are they now doing to protect patients from such appalling errors and ensure this cannot happen again? I truly hope that they have learnt from their dreadful mistakes of the past and I will continue to raise awareness where I can of the terrible impact that sepsis, and the delay in diagnosing it, could have on lives and families.”

Claire Boardman, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at JMW who represented Christine and Roger in their legal battle, commented: “Despite the incredibly distressing circumstances Christine and Roger have both conducted themselves with great dignity throughout this case and continue to strive to raise awareness of sepsis and the need for patients to receive a good standard of care. Lovetta was treated appallingly by hospital staff and her family will live with the consequences of this for the rest of their lives.

“This is one of numerous cases of delayed diagnosis of sepsis we are dealing with. It leads to severe injury and death so it is vital that more is done by hospitals to ensure staff are aware of the signs and patients receive the urgent treatment they require.”

Lovetta attended A&E at Lewisham Hospital at 3.23pm on 20 October 2013 as she was feeling extremely unwell. She had recently had a chest infection which had been treated with antibiotics. Lovetta continued to have a chesty cough but then also developed a fever, ear and face pain and pins and needles in her right arm and foot. She was suffering from sepsis but following the negligence of the hospital was sent home without treatment, Lovetta deteriorated overnight and returned to A&E by ambulance the following day. The seriousness of her condition was finally recognised and she was treated with antibiotics but by now it was too late to save her and she died the following day. 

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust comments: “This tragic case reminds us of the importance of heightened attention to sepsis, among both healthcare professionals and the public. These sepsis guidelines are in place to better identify those at most urgent risk and, as Lovetta’s case shows, when they are not followed, the consequences can be devastating.

Whenever there are signs of infection it’s crucial that healthcare professionals ‘think sepsis’. Earlier recognition and treatment can save lives and mean hugely improved outcomes for those affected.”

Ends

For more information:

Kelly Hindle

D. 0161 828 1868

E. Kelly.hindle@jmw.co.uk

Samantha Meakin

E: Samantha.meakin@jmw.co.uk

Note to Editors

JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.

JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones. For more than a decade he and his team have advised and represented thousands of victims of clinical negligence, and their relatives, and have obtained over £100 million in compensation for their clients, as well as providing the answers as to why their medical treatment has gone wrong.

http://www.jmw.co.uk/services-for-you/clinical-negligence

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