Poole Hospital

Compensation After Death Of Hospital Patient Not Fed For Nine Days5th Feb 2024

by on 5th Feb 2024


A 56-year-old man with Down’s Syndrome and dementia died in Poole Hospital after not being fed for nine days. Coles Miller’s personal injury solicitors have helped his father to claim compensation.

The tragic death of the patient – who cannot be named – has since been the subject of an incident investigation at the hospital.

The patient had been taken to Poole Hospital with a hip fracture after falling at a Bournemouth care home where he had been receiving care.

He was admitted to the Trauma & Orthopaedics ward. He had difficulty swallowing, so was listed as ‘nil by mouth’.  Nine days later he died of pneumonia after a series of errors.

Allegations against the hospital included:

  • Failure to give the patient nutrition for nine days, causing his “subsequent severe deterioration and death”.
  • Failure to adequately monitor and investigate his condition. 
  • Failure to provide experienced doctors. The junior doctors staffing the orthopaedic ward were not supervised. They did not have access to senior doctors, or any way to escalate their concerns.
  • Failure to escalate concerns when it became apparent that the patient was still nil by mouth after nine days – despite the fact that he was suffering from pneumonia.
  • Failure to provide adequate training to hospital admissions teams to ensure patients with a disability and educational needs receive the correct treatment and appropriate care.
  • Failure to advise consultants in ward rounds of the deterioration in the patient’s condition, leading to his eventual death.
  • Failure by senior clinicians to heed attempts by nursing staff to escalate care.
  • Failure to contact dieticians and the Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) team to escalate concerns.
  • Failure to provide any plan for the patient, given his disability and the deterioration in his condition.
  • General failure to communicate between the orthogeriatrician and the orthopaedic junior team – meaning the patient remained on nil by mouth for nine days, causing the deterioration in his condition and leading to his eventual death.

The patient’s death was investigated by a consultant geriatrician. The investigation report was signed off just over five months after the patient died.

Six months later, NHS Resolution – the NHS Litigation Authority – admitted that there had been a failure to provide adequate care, resulting in the patient not receiving any nutrition for nine days.

NHS Resolution admitted that, “on balance of probability, the admitted breach of duty caused a deterioration” in the patient’s condition “and he would not have died when he did.”

NHS Resolution apologised “unreservedly” for “the substandard care” that the patient had received. The trust had “learned from this very sad incident” and had “put steps in place to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.”

The care home did not admit liability. It settled without prejudice.

The compensation settlements were £22,500 in total – £15,000 from the hospital; £7,500 from the care home.

Coles Miller Managing Partner Adrian Cormack said: “This was a shocking case. It was mismanagement by the hospital.

“In NHS terms, it was a ‘never event’ – clinical negligence that should never have happened,” added Mr Cormack, who is Head of the Personal Injury Department at Coles Miller.

“Sadly, the damages for statutory bereavement are limited by law to just £15,120. This is wholly inadequate for bereaved families who have lost loved ones.

“We strongly support the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) in its campaign for a change in the law,” he added.

For more information, contact Managing Partner Adrian Cormack.

This document is not intended to constitute and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice on any specific matter. No liability for the accuracy of the content of this document, or the consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. If you seek further information, please contact Managing Partner Neil Andrews at Coles Miller Solicitors LLP.