Wales Online: Terminally ill mother left in agony following “appalling” treatment

Terminally ill mother left in agony following “appalling” treatment

THE daughter of a woman who died of cancer has criticised the standards of care given to her terminally-ill mum in the last few months of her life.

Alison Holloway was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, with severe back and leg pain in April.

The 61-year-old former chef from Caerphilly, who had moved to Fuerteventura, in the Canaries, was visiting her daughter Ceri Drummond in Chivenor, Devon, when her pain became unbearable and she sought medical attention.

As she still had a base in South Wales, she was transferred to the University Hospital of Wales for further investigation.

After an X-ray, several tests and a body scan, doctors discovered Alison had a fractured hip. However, following the onset of severe pain, further investigation over the next month at the expense of Mr and Mrs Holloway (the NHS had an 8wk waiting list) concluded she had lung cancer, which had spread to the bone and in turn caused her hip to fracture.

Despite the severity of the cancer, Ceri’s mother, Alison, spent three months in Cardiff Heath Hospital and only one week in a specialist hospice. Ceri said that during her mother’s last few months in the hospital her care was “unacceptable” and “disgusting”.

The 33-year-old teacher said they were never told by her mother’s consultant that the cancer was terminal. Ceri only found out the prognosis after a chance conversation with a visiting doctor, this was then confirmed by one of the ward nurses.

The transfer of Ceri’s mother to a dedicated cancer hospice was also delayed after several operations left Alison with infected wounds.

“She ended up having to have three operations, as the wound kept getting infected, and that was causing her great distress”.

“The ward nurses failed to clean, disinfect and change my mother’s dressings adequately and i believe this shortened her life considerably as she was forced to keep going back into surgery. On arrival at the hospice, Marie Curie nurses were “appalled” at the state of her dressings”.

Ceri also claims her mother was denied morphine because of staff shortages and that patients’ buzzers were turned off during the night, leaving her unable to call for vital assistance.

“She was not getting the pain relief she needed and sometimes she had to wait hours”.

“One of the major issues was that there was extremely poor communication. We had to take all of our concerns right to the top, to senior managers to get anyone to listen to us”.

She said her mother’s pain was then made worse when she was due to attend Velindre Hospital for radiotherapy – the hospital failed to book a stretcher for her, meaning she had to be transported in a wheelchair in great discomfort.

“Staff forgot to request a stretcher, so she was forced to sit-up in a wheelchair, when she hadn’t sat up for weeks - that caused a great deal of discomfort following the operation. By the end of the third operation we knew she would not be able to endure any more”.

“I made a complaint to the health board but I am not satisfied with the response. There is a protocol in place, but clearly it is not always followed because of a lack of staff.

“I know that the outcome would not have been any different as it was terminal, but I believe her care could have been more dignified and we should have been kept better informed.”

Alison passed away on August 5 after a week in the Marie Curie Hospice, which was temporarily being hosted by Velindre Hospital.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said they had conducted a review of Mrs Holloway’s care and had been in contact with Ceri.

Ruth Walker, director of nursing, said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Mrs Drummond and her family on the loss of her mother.

“As a health board, we are always sorry when family members have cause to raise concerns whilst also coping with bereavement, and we take such matters extremely seriously.

“Following the concerns raised by Mrs Drummond about the care of her mother, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of the care of Mrs Holloway, which involved all the clinicians involved in her care.

“I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Drummond remains unhappy about the quality of care her mother received at the University Hospital of Wales.

Notes to Editors

To interview Ceri Drummond, please call 07780 888 514 or 01271 813 903.