In a coma: Meningitis woman told "wait until morning"

A WOMAN struck down with meningitis has been left in a coma with brain damage - after an NHS out-of-hours service told her to wait until morning to see a doctor. Christine Saltmarshe, 73, a mother of five and a grandmother, from Alconbury Weston told the

A WOMAN struck down with meningitis has been left in a coma with brain damage - after an NHS out-of-hours service told her to wait until morning to see a doctor.

Christine Saltmarshe, 73, a mother of five and a grandmother, from Alconbury Weston told the on-call doctor she recognised the symptoms of the deadly illness because she had contracted it 10 years before.

But after telling Christine she was mistaken, the doctor said she should wait until the next day before seeking medical care.

Now Mrs Saltmarshe, who was a full-time carer for her severely-disabled daughter Annabel, 37, is fighting for her life in Hinchingbrooke Hospital.


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Her doctors, who have diagnosed pneumococcal meningitis, believe she has suffered serious brain damage and has no hope of ever being able to live independently again.

Christine's devastated family have slammed the ''appalling'' misdiagnosis and said a full investigation by the NHS trust involved is not enough to repair the damage to their lives.

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Her son Nicholas, 34, said: ''We have had an admission from the woman who is dealing with the complaint that mum said on the phone she thought she had meningitis and was worried.

''We have not heard the full transcript yet. That is all still under investigation.''

Christine rang the out-of-hours service run by NHS Cambridgeshire on March 22 complaining of a bad earache, headache and tiredness.

After being told to see a doctor in the morning, she rang her family before her condition worsened and she collapsed at her home.

Nicholas added: ''We did not find her until Tuesday morning. My brother could not get into the house so he had to ring the police and an ambulance.

''She was very independent so we did not think anything was wrong. The Saturday before she had been to the England Scotland rugby match at Twickenham.

''She certainly did not act her age.''

His wife, Sam 34, said Christine had spent the last 37 years caring 24 hours a day for Annabel, and contracted the illness as a result of getting run down.

She said: ''She had exactly the same symptoms as 10 years ago. She was trying to tell everybody but because the doctor said come back tomorrow we thought she was just panicking.

''It happened so quickly. Now we all feel terrible because we did not take her seriously.

''You should be able to trust your doctor. But if they say don't worry you think you are just being paranoid, even if it goes against your gut feelings.

''If the doctor had just come out to see her and given the emergency treatment she desperately needed she might be here to tell the story herself.''

Matthew Winn, managing cirector, Cambridgeshire Community Services, said: "I would like to express my sympathy to Mrs Saltmarshe and her family. We have launched a full investigation into the circumstances leading to Mrs Saltmarshe's admission to Hinchingbrooke Hospital and the response she received from the Out of Hours Doctor Service.

"Once the investigation has concluded I will meet with the family to explain the results of the investigation and the actions we took on 22nd March. In the meantime our Complaints Manager will remain in contact with the family to provide any advice required and to keep them informed of progress with the investigation."

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