Northern Ireland

Royal Victoria Hospital: Woman tells of mother's A&E distress

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Media captionCollette Macruagian's mother spoke to BBC NI's health correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly about her mother's death

A woman whose mother died at a Belfast hospital has said her family feel let down by the National Health Service.

Her mother was one of five patients at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E who may have died partly because they were not treated quickly enough.

The Belfast trust informed her that a "serious adverse incident" had contributed to the 80-year-old's death.

Its chief executive said there will be a review into whether other families had not been told of such incidents.

Three of the five bereaved families from last year were not fully informed of all the details of the deaths.

"We're looking back now over the last two to three years to determine if there are other instances like this where families were not engaged or informed," the trust's Colm Donaghy said.

"We're starting the investigations because we now realise that those families weren't informed when they should have been. It's not acceptable and it shouldn't have happened."

He added: "We are very keen that our clinicians and staff continue to identify these incidents to us so that we can learn from them, so that we can ensure that the learning that takes place makes improvement in our system."

Assembly being briefed

Health Minister Edwin Poots briefed the Northern Ireland Executive about the matter on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, he said: "Our job is to ensure we learn from those incidents and to do our best to make sure systems are in place to minimise the chance of them happening again."

Mr Poots also briefed ministerial colleagues on an inspection report carried out by the regulatory body, the RQIA.

Earlier, Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride apologised to the families of those who died.

Stormont's health committee heard that, in four cases, contact had been made with the coroner.

Collette Macruagian told the BBC's Nolan Show on Wednesday that her mother had fallen and suffered a head injury.

She said the Royal Victoria Hospital's emergency department had been very busy on the night her mother attended.

"My mum had been left sitting for hours in A&E," she said. "She had been triaged but that had been done incorrectly," she said.

"She had been left for some time. We feel that because she had been left for so long, that may have contributed to her death.

"My family are completely devastated by the death of my mum. It has left us feeling somewhat cautious, or maybe untrusting, in relation to the national health service."

She said her family's experience in other parts of the hospital had been very different.

"We know my mum deserved a lot better. She didn't get the care she deserved," she said.

"We would stress that our experience of A&E on that occasion was not reflective of my mum's treatment and care when she went to the neurosurgery ward on the Royal. Her care there was absolutely outstanding."


On Thursday, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said it was outrageous that people seeking help in hospital did not get the help they needed.

Mr Robinson said anyone who heard the details of the 80-year-old woman's death would want to ensure it did not happen again.

Asked if people should lose their jobs, including his health minister, he said: "I heard Edwin (Poots) indicate certain information was not imparted to him and I would be very strict on officials who were not providing the minister with necessary information upon which decisions can be taken.

"Of course it is the duty of the (Belfast health) trust to do the operational business for the health service, but the oversight can only be meaningful if the information is coming up the line so the health ministers knows and can report to the executive on it."

Quality of care

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride told the health committee on Wednesday that three of the five "serious adverse incidents" at the Royal were still undergoing investigation, and one of those was subject to independent review.

Speaking on the BBC's Nolan Show on Thursday, Dr McBride said the families "should have been advised, should have been informed".

"Measuring how many people died is a very crude measure of the quality of care, and also of the experience of that care," he said.

"We need to listen to what patients are telling us about their experiences of care."

Image caption First Minister Peter Robinson has publicly backed health minister Edwin Poots

Dr McBride said Northern Ireland did not have more serious adverse incidents than elsewhere in the UK.

"I have no evidence to suggest that the number of serious adverse incidents or the ratio of people who come to harm in our A&E departments or any other part of our system is any different from other parts of the UK," he said.

Dr McBride said there was a shortage of medical staff across the UK with 50% of posts being vacant.

"We have to make it more attractive for people to come into emergency medicine and stay in emergency medicine," he said.

'Excellent care'

On Wednesday, Mr Poots told the committee that A&E departments in Northern Ireland performed better, and that mortality rates were better, than those in England.

He said: "We should stop damning our emergency departments because they respond very, very well to people and they provide excellent care to people.

"It may well be that our staff and our emergency departments and our hospitals are actually carrying out their work more thoroughly, which may deliver poorer waiting times but deliver better outcomes.

"We have better outcomes than the average across all of the English hospitals in our hospitals here in Northern Ireland.

"That's the important message... that we actually have lower mortality rates than the English hospitals.

"That is a very very important message that the public need to hear, hospitals in Northern Ireland are performing safely."

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