Kent

Maidstone Hospital's weekend staffing blamed for death

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Media captionRebecca Ben-Nejma was expecting her third child

The family of a woman who died from an ectopic pregnancy after being turned away from hospital say she might still be alive if it had been better staffed at weekends.

Rebecca Ben-Nejma, 28, died on a Sunday two days after being sent home from Maidstone Hospital without the scan they say could have saved her life.

The hospital trust has agreed to pay a six-figure sum in compensation.

And it says services have been improved since the death in 2010.

Mrs Ben-Nejma, from Maidstone, was expecting her third child when she went to the hospital's A&E department late on a Friday afternoon after experiencing abdominal pains.

Death 'avoidable'

Although a doctor told the family he thought she had an ectopic pregnancy - where the fertilised egg develops outside the womb instead of inside - she was told there was no-one around to do the scan that could have confirmed the diagnosis, and she was told to return on the following Monday.

Image caption Rebecca Ben-Nejma was sent home with painkillers, her family say

But Mrs Ben-Nejma died after collapsing in the arms of her daughter, Charlotte, on the Sunday - her 13th birthday.

She told the BBC: "I was actually there with my nan and my stepdad when the hospital admitted that it could have been avoided.

"You just think, well, why didn't you do it?"

The day after the hospital visit, Mrs Ben-Nejma returned after suffering more pain.

Apology for 'misdiagnosis'

Her mother, Marion Mitchell, said a registrar who examined her daughter on the Saturday sent her home with painkillers after diagnosing gastro-enteritis.

Dr Paul Sigston, medical director at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, said in a statement: "The trust sincerely and unreservedly apologises for the failings that contributed to the death of Mrs Ben-Nejma, following the misdiagnosis of her condition at Maidstone Hospital in 2010.

"In order to ensure that such failings do not happen again the trust has introduced a range of measures, including strengthening the emergency gynaecology service, which is now centralised at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, and as a result of which patients now have better access to senior staff, diagnostic equipment and treatment of emergency situations."

Mrs Mitchell said the trust had admitted liability promptly and had been helpful since then, culminating in last week's agreement to pay the compensation.

She said: "I can't slate the solicitors that are working for them, but none of it is going to bring Rebecca back."

Studies have suggested that death rates at hospitals in England can be up to 25% higher at weekends, and NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has said he would like hospitals to function as effectively at weekends as during the week.

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