Pain relief for dying woman delayed

Borders General Hospital
Borders General Hospital

NHS Borders has apologised to a patient’s daughter after a complaint about the care given to her mother in her last hours of life was upheld.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) made four recommendations after upholding the complaint, including that the health board should issue an apology.

Reporting its decision, the SPSO said: “Mrs C told us that her late mother (Mrs A) did not get the care she deserved during the last few hours of her life at Borders General Hospital.

“She said that at other times the standard of care provided during her mother’s stay in hospital had been good or excellent.

“Mrs C and other family members were aware that Mrs A was in the final few days of her life, and had stayed with her throughout the night.

“She said that Mrs A suffered unnecessarily because staff failed to check or assess her condition, despite family members reporting her distress to them.”

The ombudsman added: “The board told us that Mrs A was assessed every time family members asked staff for help, although they also noted that drugs that might have provided some relief for Mrs A could have been given earlier.

“We found, however, that Mrs A’s medical records did not contain the necessary entries to support the statement about assessment, and that there were some gaps in these records.

“Based on the information available we could not, therefore, conclude that they properly assessed Mrs A’s needs, and we upheld the complaint.”

The SPSO called for the health board to provide an update on the service manager for medicine’s review of the complaint and any action plan arising from it; undertake a further review of the complaint in the light of the SPSO findings and provide an action plan; apologise that there was no assessment at an earlier point of whether pain relief should be provided; and give evidence of the health board’s plan for terminal and end-of-life care, and of the staff training undertaken to support this.

Asked to respond to the complaint and the recommendations, an NHS Borders spokeswoman said: “NHS Borders accepts and has acted upon the recommendations made by the SPSO.”