The devastated family of a 94-year-old man who was moved from one hospital to another 13 times in the last 10 weeks of his life have told of the distress they felt at the way he was treated in the run up to his death.
During that period, Reg Thompson spent time at five different hospitals, including Melton, on 11 different wards, some for just a matter of hours.
In total he travelled 158 miles between hospitals from December 21, when he was admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary after a fall at home, to his death on March 2, at Kettering General Hospital.
Brian Winterton, Mr Thompson’s nephew, said: “If you suggested this as a storyline in a soap it wouldn’t get through, it’s just so unbelieveable.”
Tests revealed Mr Thompson, who lived in Oadby for 59 years and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, had a chest infection when he was first taken to A&E four days before Christmas.
He never married or had children but had a close relationship with his late sister’s family, nephew Brian and nieces Jill Insley and Christine Clapham.
Jill (50) said: “He really didn’t want to be there but we kept telling him he was in the right place. We couldn’t have been more wrong.”
On Christmas Eve discussions were held about discharging Mr Thompson.
Brian (63) claimed: “There was no care package in place and there was no way they were going to be able to sort one on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
“It was ridiculous to suggest he could go home, he was just not well enough.”
On December 27, Mr Thompson was moved to Evington House at the Leicester General Hospital where he started to show signs of improvement.
On Tuesday, January 8, Mr Thompson was sent home, but no care had been arranged and his family say they were not informed until they rang to check how he was.
Just 52 hours later, on Friday, January 11, an ambulance was called and Mr Thompson was again taken to A&E at LRI, this time with suspected pneumonia. He was admitted to ward 23.
Brian said: “He had been sent home where he spent two days in bed, with no care arranged, not eating or drinking and on oral medication rather than the intravenous he had been on while he was on the ward.
“When he was sent home we said between us that he would be back again in 48 hours, we weren’t far off right.”
Two weeks later, on Friday, January 25, Mr Thompson was moved to Melton Mowbray Hospital. Just 30 minutes after he arrived, he was already on his way back to LRI with pneumonia, dehydration, a water infection and in a delirious state.
Brian said: “The sister there was shocked that he had even been sent there.”
Jill added: “As soon as she saw him she arranged for him to go straight back, she stabilised him and did what she could but he needed medical help.”
Mr Thomspon was transferred back to the LRI critical care unit then admitted to Ward 29 where, after a few days, Brian said he was told that his uncle had had a CT scan revealing he had a broken vertebrae.
Brian asked: “How could a man who was brought in having had a fall, not have had a scan a month after he was admitted?”
He claimed: “It says it all, he had been in the care of the hospital for more than a month – apart from the two days he spent at home – and not one person had thought to see whether he was injured from the original fall.”
On Friday February 8, Mr Thompson was again transferred to Melton Mowbray Hospital.
Five hours later he was back at the LRI again having fallen when he got out of bed.
Jill claimed: “Staff had not been notified of his broken back, weakness and delirium on the telephone transfer and they therefore didn’t know that he needed greater observation to prevent further injury.”
This time, Mr Thompson was admitted to ward 38. After eight days, the family were told that their uncle was being sent to St Luke’s Hospital in Market Harborough.
Christine said: “We thought he might start to make a recovery there. We hoped it would finally mean no more moving around.”
But after 11 days, on Monday February 25, the family received a call from the hospital to tell them their uncle had again been sent to the LRI with possible pneumonia.
Jill visited him there and found him curled up in bed in pain. An hour after she left, staff contacted her to say he was moving back to St Luke’s because he had a chest infection and not pneumonia.
At 9pm, another call came through, telling the family he was being sent to Kettering General Hospital with a high temperature.
Christine said: “Me and Brian arrived when he was in majors at Kettering and he just turned to me and said ‘I’m done for’.”
On Thursday February 28, Brian received a call telling him that his uncle had taken a ‘turn for the worse’.
On Friday, March 1, he visited his uncle and found him curled up in bed. He said he had not eaten for a number of days.
At 3.50am the following day, the hospital phoned Brian advising him to make his way to the hospital. He arrived around an hour later and was told that his uncle had died shortly after the phone call.
Brian said: “I tried to get there as quickly as I could but with him being in Kettering I would never have made it.”
The family have since made a complaint to University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
Brian said: “Every time he was admitted to a different place they talked about getting him back to the base line, how he had been when he came in, but he was getting worse every time he moved.”
He claimed: “They’d tell us he met the criteria to be transferred, just because it freed up a bed or ticked a box, he might well have ‘met the criteria’ but it was clear he wasn’t well enough to be moved.
Christine added: “We were realistic, we knew what the eventual outcome would be.”
But she believes if he had got the right treatment at the very beginning he could have come home, maybe not to live on his own as he had been doing but he might have been able to go into a care home.
“He was moved here, there and everywhere.”
She continued: “All we wanted was for him to be comfortable, clean, pain free, hydrated and warm.
“In the same bed, in one place, so he could die in peace rather than enduring what he did.”
The family wanted to publicise their experience in the hope that the same thing doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Jill said: “We know that the NHS is struggling financially, but care doesn’t cost anything.
“He used to not stay away from home, we’d ask him if he wanted to come away for a weekend or on holiday and he wouldn’t because he used to say he wanted to die in his own bed.
“It couldn’t have been further from that in the end.”
Sally Ruane, chair of the Patients’ Panel said: “This is a tragic case and we hope and trust that lessons will be learned.
“There seem to have been a number of instances where the decision to discharge Mr Thompson from the Leicester Royal Infirmary was either ill-conceived or was inadequately managed and communication seems to have been poor both among staff and with the family at times.
“Given current resource constraints, the system is under considerable pressure and there is a risk that errors could increase.
“It is heartening to read that the family took the time in such difficult circumstances to highlight the care provided by individuals.”
Moira Durbridge, director of safety and risk at Leicester’s Hospitals said: “We would like to offer our condolences to Mr Thompson’s family.
“We have received a complaint from Mr Thompson’s niece with concerns about his care and we are currently looking into all of the issues that have been raised with us.
“It is very complex and involves many areas in our organisation, as well as two other organisations.
“His family can be assured that we take their concerns very seriously and will be responding to them in detail once we have finished our investigation.”
She added: “We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Mr Thompson’s family to discuss the concerns they have already raised with us, and any others that they may have should they wish to do so.”
A spokesperson for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, the organisation in charge of the county’s community hospitals, added: “Our sincere condolences to Mr Thompson’s family.
“We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with the family so that we can investigate it.”
Timeline of Reg Thompson’s hospital moves:
Friday December 21, 2018
Admitted to A&E after a fall at his Oadby home
Thursday December 27, 2018
Transferred to a rehabilitation ward at Evington House at the Leicester General Hospital.
Tuesday January 8, 2019
Discharged and goes home.
Friday January 11, 2019
Admitted to ward 23 at the LRI with pneumonia after an ambulance took him to A&E.
Friday January 25, 2019
Transferred to Melton Mowbray Hospital.
30 minutes later
Sent back to LRI with suspected pneumonia, dehydration and a water infection. He is admitted to ward 29.
Friday February 8, 2019
Again transferred to Melton Mowbray Hospital.
Five hours later
Again returned to the LRI, this time after falling out of bed. He is admitted to ward 38.
Thursday February 14, 2019
Sent to St Luke’s Hospital, Market Harborough.
Monday Febraury 25, 2019
The family receive a call saying their uncle has been sent to LRI with possible pneumonia.
Four hours later
Family advised Mr Thompson is now on his way back to St Luke’s with a chest infection.
Four-and-a-half hours later
Another phone call, this time telling the family that Mr Thompson has been sent to Kettering General Hospital with a high temperature.
Thursday February 28, 2019
Described by staff at Kettering as having ‘taken a turn for the worse’. Brian visits his uncle the next morning
Saturday March 2, 2019
At 3.50am Brian receives a call saying he should make his way to the hospital. Around an hour later he arrives to be told his uncle died just before 4am, shortly after the phonecall.
Report by Amy Orton
Local democracy reporter