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Covid-19: Patient gets virus after 240-mile hospital move

By Nikki Fox
BBC East Health Correspondent

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image copyrightKay Cantell
image captionKathleen Cantell contracted Covid-19 after she was moved to a hospital near Darlington, her daughter says

A woman said she was "very angry" after her elderly mother caught Covid-19 following a move to a hospital hundreds of miles away.

Kay Cantell said her mother Kathleen, 73, was transferred from Norfolk to Darlington in September.

"I was very angry to think that she's gone up to Darlington and she's got Covid. That was shocking," she said.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust apologised for not informing her of her mother's move sooner.

Mrs Cantell, who has bi-polar disorder, was a patient at Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth when she was sent to a care home in Cromer.

On 23 September, her daughter received a call saying the stay was not working out, but that no beds were available back at Northgate.

The caller said Mrs Cantell was being transferred to a private hospital near Darlington, 240 miles (386km) away.

"She was on her way as I got the phone call. We didn't have time to say goodbye to her," said Ms Cantell.

"I was shocked. I was surprised, absolutely devastated. And I was so worried for mum, because I know she'd be feeling frightened and she'd want to see me and my brother.

"I broke down in tears at work. It was awful."

image captionMrs Cantell was moved from a psychiatric hospital in Great Yarmouth to a care home in Cromer, and then to a private hospital near Darlington

Mrs Cantell's family has not been able to see her since.

Her daughter said she had received confirmation from the private Priory Hospital Middleton St George, near Darlington, that her mother had Covid-19.

"I feel sick inside because I don't know what's going to happen to mum," she said.

The BBC understands Mrs Cantell contracted Covid-19 in the past week.

The hospital said: "We are following all necessary guidance set out by the Department of Health and Social Care regarding Covid-19, including around PPE and infection control procedures.

"We work closely with Public Health England, NHSE and other public health bodies to ensure best practice is followed."

image captionKay Cantell says she broke down in tears when she found out her mother was being transferred

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust chief medical officer Dr Dan Dalton said hospitals where trust patients were placed "all do a good job of making sure they look after people with Covid".

But he added: "It isn't appropriate, I think, for me to discuss an individual person's treatment in this way.

"Our staff worked incredibly hard to try to make contact with Mrs Cantell's daughter and on this occasion they weren't able to do so.

"It's not because our staff weren't trying - we got something wrong, we'd written a number down wrong - and in the end we didn't manage to make contact, and we need to do better next time."

The trust, which received a "requires improvement" rating from the Care Quality Commission in January, spent almost £7m on out-of-area care in the last financial year.

Last December, it apologised after patient Peggy Copeman, 81, died on a motorway hard shoulder as she returned home from treatment more than 200 miles (322km) away.

'Kick in the teeth'

At the trust's annual general meeting on 9 October, Dr Dalton pledged to try to stop patients, particularly those who were frail or elderly, from being sent out of the trust area.

Mrs Copeman's son-in-law Nick Fulcher said news of Mrs Cantell's transfer felt like a "kick in the teeth".

"I was told by the trust on Monday that no older person was out of area. Then I get to hear this and I just feel so sad, shocked heartbroken that some other family's going through what we went through," he said.

"We've got a trust we cannot trust."

The government has set what it describes as a "national ambition" to end inappropriate out-of-area placements in mental health services for adults by next year.

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