Hospital staff missed injury

AN error was made by accident and emergency staff in failing to carry out a simple test which may have identified a fractured hip in an elderly patient, an inquest heard. Lilian Watt, aged 86, may have been suffering from a hairline hip fracture for more

AN error was made by accident and emergency staff in failing to carry out a simple test which may have identified a fractured hip in an elderly patient, an inquest heard.

Lilian Watt, aged 86, may have been suffering from a hairline hip fracture for more than three weeks before she died from bronchial pneumonia, the onset of which can be linked to immobility, medical experts told a coroner.

The head of A&E at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Howard Sherriff, said he believed an error was made by staff who should have done a weight-bearing test on Mrs Watt's "for the sake of completeness".

She had been brought to the hospital by ambulance on August 14 last year and paramedics had queried a hip injury, although there were no visible signs of such a fracture, coroner David Morris heard.


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She was treated for a right knee injury and sent home, but was readmitted later that day with confusion. Mrs Watt remained in hospital, receiving treatment on Larch ward for a chest infection, and was diagnosed with a fractured hip by a physiotherapist on September 8. She died three days later from pneumonia.

Mrs Watt's daughter, representing the family, told the coroner that they were concerned the fracture had not been detected earlier and were critical of the lack of communication between staff and relatives over treatment.

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Jeanette Teague added that to have one person to contact at the hospital on a regular basis about her mother's care rather than reading her notes or talking to a different member of staff on each occasion, would have been "beneficial".

Apologising on behalf of the hospital, clinical director Dr Philip Roberts said lessons would be learnt from the case and moves would be made to improve the communication between staff and relatives.

He said although he trusted his colleagues' medical assessments, family members were also an important gauge of a patient's condition.

An independent pathologist, Dr Martin Goddard from Papworth Hospital, carried out a post-mortem examination and said Mrs Watt was a frail lady, weighing only 34.5kg. He said the hip fracture was "likely to be present" on August 14, but several factors, including the fracture, increased her risk of developing pneumonia.

Doctors who treated Mrs Watt during her time in Hinchingbrooke said there was no clinical sign of the hip injury, which is usually recognised by a shortened or rotated leg. Symptoms were only apparent in Mrs Watt from September 9, the inquest heard, and the patient had given no sign of pain when her hip was manipulated on arrival at the A&E department.

Coroner David Morris adjourned the inquest to compose a narrative verdict in relation to Mrs Watt's death.

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