Grieving Connor Downs family meets trust officials
THE chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has apologised to a family who complained about the lack of compassion shown to their relative during her final hours.
Trevor Law, from Connor Downs, whose wife died alone at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro on March 23, has been invited to become a patient ambassador and work with the trust on how it can improve patient care.
It followed a face-to-face meeting on Tuesday between Mr Law's family and eight senior trust officials including chief executive Lezli Boswell.
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Having suffered from ovarian cancer for 18 months, Mrs Law was admitted to the hospital on March 22.
Her husband said she was kept waiting for more than two hours in the medical admission unit rather then being sent straight to the specialist cancer ward.
The next day the family was also told they could not visit her because of an outbreak of norovirus.
Her condition deteriorated and staff contacted Mr Law, but by the time he arrived his wife had died of peritonitis, small bowel obstruction and small bowel perforation.
Mr Law said following the meeting he was pleased with the trust's response, saying it had given assurances that it would provide a private room for dying patients and their relatives – which he wanted to be named Janet's Way.
The couple's daughter Karina Wills, who attended the meeting with her sister and brother, said it brought closure and allowed them to move on and grieve for their mother.
Mr Law said: "She was a wonderful woman and never complained. We had no idea how widespread the cancer was until her final three days in hospital.
"It was never spelt out to us how serious her condition was. She died alone and we still have no idea whether she said anything, or left us any message."
In a frank four-page letter to Mr Law, Mrs Boswell said the trust would be reviewing its care of cancer patients and the way in which it dealt with their relatives.
She apologised for taking three months to respond to his complaint, saying: "My response has taken too long and in doing so has clearly added to your distress during what is a very difficult time for you."
She outlined the action the trust would now be undertaking as a result of the complaint, including a review of its admissions process for cancer patients and better information on visiting restrictions during a norovirus outbreak, which do not in any case prevent relatives from visiting patients who are gravely ill or dying.
She also said that as a result of the family's experience the trust would ensure greater privacy for dying patients and their families, especially when there was an outbreak of infection and wards might be closed and bed space limited.