King George Hospital death: Ward staffing ‘inadequate’, inquest hears

King George Hospital, Barley Lane

King George Hospital, Barley Lane - Credit: Archant

Elsie Brooks died in King George Hospital on January 6 2010, less than a month after her operation.

She was moved to a low-level contingency ward at the Barley Lane hospital after a norovirus outbreak prevented her from being immediately moved to the better resourced Heather Ward.

Her daughters, Janet and Maggie, said they were “frightened” to hear that their mother, who lived in Barking, had returned to Erica ward where she had spent the run-up to surgery.

During her time there, they had been asked by a nurse to clear her diahorrea from the floor and collect a stool sample, as well as stay overnight to monitor her.

Speaking on the first day of the inquest in Walthamstow Coroner’s Court on Monday, consultant surgeon Dr Aman Bhargava suggested pressure on resources had stretched staff.

“In late 2008, staffing levels were not adequate,” he said. “I felt that the team approach was lacking.

“My post-operative plan had not been put into place. Mrs Brooks was not sat up, she hadn’t been mobilised and her anticoagulants hadn’t been restarted.”

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Dr Bhargava said that he was unaware his patients were being sent to Erica ward which he did not feel was the right place for post-abdominal surgery patients.

Dr Paul Dodd, a consultant anaesthetist and intensivist who assessed Mrs Brooks before the operation, said it was a “matter of frustration” that Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT), which runs King George Hospital, had not told him Heather ward had been closed and patients were being moved.

“If I was told, if there was even a hint to say that this wasn’t simply a re-provision in a different care area, then it [the decision to operate] would have been much more complicated,” he said.

Dr Kanthi Reveendarn, consultant anesthetist, said the Trust had made many changes since Mrs Brooks’ death including the addition of an outreach team at both King George and Queen’s hospitals and an increased provision of beds.

The coroner was expected to reach a verdict yesterday (Weds).