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Hospital to blame for wife's death
A HOSPITAL has finally admitted blame for the death of a woman – after four years of denying responsibility.
Disabled pensioner Veronica Stevens died after choking on soup in a ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester almost four years ago.
Her husband, Rae, has fought a long legal battle to try to prove that the hospital’s version of events surrounding her death could not be true.
Now he has received an apology and compensation after the hospital admitted Mrs Stevens would have lived had she been cared for properly. Mr Stevens was told that his wife had choked after trying to feed herself a bowl of soup. But he argued that was impossible following a serious stroke she had suffered 11 years earlier which left her wheelchair-bound, unable to speak or swallow properly and incapable of holding a knife or fork. The stroke was so debilitating that her husband, who became her carer, always fed her himself and insisted on supervising his wife’s feeding in hospital. However, on the day of the incident Mr Stevens been asked to leave the side ward to make more room while staff used a hoist to lift his wife out of her bed and into a chair ready for her meal. When he returned she was choking. Despite suction being administered and her being given oxygen therapy and prescribed breathing apparatus, the 66-year-old grandmother deteriorated. She died on April 22, 2009, two days after she choked. Between Mr Stevens and his solicitors, Waldrons, the hospital trust were sent about 50 letters, many demanding an apology and an explanation for his wife’s poor care. The trust admitted liability for Mrs Stevens’ death on November 20 last year. The family has been paid a five-figure sum in compensation and five-figure legal costs in an out of court settlement.
Trust chief executive Penny Venables, who was not in charge at the time of the incident, wrote: “I am writing on behalf of the trust to offer my sincere apologies for the shortcomings in care provided to your late wife Veronica during her admission to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
“It is accepted if the care provided to your wife at the mealtime on 20 April (2009) had been appropriate she would not have choked on the soup provided to her and she would have survived the choking incident.” The letter goes on to express ‘sincere apologies’ and the ‘very deep regret’ felt by all clinicians and staff involved. The admission is a U-turn by the trust. In December 2009 the then chief executive, John Rostill, wrote to Mr Stevens saying the actions of two sisters on the ward were ‘timely and appropriate’ and neither had witnessed the incident. The letter said Mrs Stevens ‘appears to have helped herself to a beaker of soup and aspirated (choked)’.
Mr Stevens, 69, of St Peter’s Drive, Martley, who was treated for depression after his wife’s death, said: “They kept on saying my wife pulled the trolley towards herself and had the soup herself. “They said that for four years. I just wanted the truth. “They made me more and more annoyed because they carried on repeating this. “It is disgraceful to put anyone who has gone through a death through extra agony just to get to the truth. “I never wanted the money. It was about justice for my wife. “All we ever wanted was the truth. “I wanted them to admit what went wrong. “There was no way she could have fed herself.”
The Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had not responded by the time your Worcester News went to press.