The family of a mum who died following delays in diagnosing and treating her sepsis are warning of the dangers of the condition.
Tina Hughes started to feel unwell in August last year. The 59-year-old’s symptoms worsened and she was admitted to accident and emergency at Sandwell General Hospital by ambulance on 8 September, 2021. Her family had raised concerns that she had been vomiting for days, was confused and had stopped passing urine.
Paramedics flagged a potential diagnosis of sepsis but an initial hospital assessment shortly after her admission didn’t identify the condition, an NHS investigation report seen by the family’s legal team at Irwin Mitchell said. A follow up assessment by a surgical team around six hours after Tina’s admission also didn’t mention sepsis, the report added.
There was a disagreement between medics as to whether Tina, of Tipton, West Midlands, should be treated on a surgical ward or in the high dependency unit. Following an intensive care review around 12 hours after she was admitted, sepsis was suspected. Tina, a mum-of-three and grandma-of-five was transferred to the acute medical unit at around 3am on 9 September.
However, her condition continued to deteriorate. Tina, a carer, was admitted to intensive care around four hours later and put on a ventilator. She died the following morning.
Following Tina’s death, her daughter, Yvette Whitehouse, 37, has instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust could have done more to diagnose and treat her sepsis – which sees the body attack itself in response to an infection.
‘There was a delay in explicit recognition of sepsis’
Her loved ones are now joining their legal team at Irwin Mitchell in campaigning to raise awareness of the life-threatening condition.
It comes after a serious incident investigation report by the Trust found there was “a delay in explicit recognition of sepsis”. The investigation also found a delay in treating Tina’s sepsis as well as a disagreement as to the level of care Tina needed and where she should be transferred to from A&E.
The report made a number of recommendations including training for junior doctors around sepsis. Where there is a disagreement over where a patient should be treated and the level of care they require, this must be escalated to a consultant.
Jade Elliott-Archer, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Yvette, said: “Tina was a much-loved partner, mum and grandmother who was adored by her family. The last year and coming to terms with her death have been incredibly difficult for the whole family.“Understandably they have a number of concerns about the events that unfolded in the lead up to Tina’s death. The Trust’s own investigation report has identified concerning areas in the care Tina received. We’re now investigating these further to provide the family with all of the answers they deserve.
“Through our work we sadly see the devastating impact sepsis can have. Tina’s family hope that by sharing their story they can help others by being aware of the symptoms.“While incredibly dangerous sepsis can be treated with early detection and treatment.”
‘We want to make others aware of the symptoms of sepsis and how important early detection’
Tina’s Daughter, Yvette, said: “Mum was an absolutely fantastic mum and grandma. Her life revolved around her family. She was the heartbeat of our family and would do anything for us.
“She always saw the best in people and helped others less fortunate than herself. Mum brought out the best in people and had a heart of solid gold.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened and life without my Mum will never be the same again for all of us.
“While the last year and trying to come to terms with what happened has taken its toll on us all it also feels like the anniversary of Mum’s death is a time to share her story to help others.
“Before Mum’s death we hadn’t heard too much about sepsis. However, we now know how dangerous it can be. We hope that by speaking out we can help make others aware of the symptoms of sepsis and how important early detection and treatment is.”
Tina also leaves behind sons Philip Hughes and Ryann Hughes, 42 and 27, and grandchildren Jack, 19, Hollie, 17, 15-year-old Harry as well as Louie, 13, and 11-year-old Joe. An inquest which will examine more details around Tina’s death is due to take at a later date.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
Signs of sepsis include slurred speech, confusion, extreme shivering and muscle pain, passing no urine in a day, severe breathlessness and mottled or discoloured skin.
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