NHS Hospital trust apologises for 'shortcomings' after death of woman with toxic level of painkillers in her system

Katherine Jane Bailey had a toxic level of painkillers in her system when she died after she went to Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital with a severe nosebleed
Katherine Bailey (right) with her daughter Samantha Bailey and granddaughterKatherine Bailey (right) with her daughter Samantha Bailey and granddaughter
Katherine Bailey (right) with her daughter Samantha Bailey and granddaughter

The NHS trust which runs Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital has apologised after admitting that the treatment it gave a patient contributed to her death

Katherine Jane Bailey, 56 - known as Kate - died at New Cross in the early hours of December 22, 2020.

She had a toxic level of dihydrocodeine, an opioid painkiller, in her system. Mrs Bailey’s family is now suing the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, for clinical negligence.

The law firm supporting the family with their claim has now revealed the trust has apologised for what it described as the “shortcomings in care” which Mrs Bailey, of Signal Grove, Bloxwich, received. Mrs Bailey’s daughter, Samantha, said the trust’s response had only partly answered the family’s concerns.

She said: “The trust still hasn’t admitted or denied any liability for the fact that mum had a toxic amount of a controlled drug in her system, or that their record keeping doesn’t appear to have been done properly. Mum went to New Cross with a severe nose bleed, which was a medical emergency, but didn’t need the type of painkiller she was given.

"We have been told that the trust has changed some of its procedures since she died, and I hope these improvements mean no other family has to go through what we have. My mum didn’t overdose on the drug herself, because it is kept in a locked cupboard. Someone must know how so much of it got into her system. The trust has apologised, but that won’t bring her back to us.”

Associate Michael Portman-Hann, of FBC Manby Bowdler, is supporting the family with their claim. He said: “We have now received the trust’s letter of response, and the revelations it contains are extremely concerning for patient care at the hospital.

“The trust admits that several aspects of the treatment Kate received constituted a breach of its duty of care, which in this case had tragic consequences for Kate and her family. We are continuing to investigate this matter and hope to work with the trust to secure an effective resolution so that Kate’s family can start to put this ordeal behind them.”

In the letter of response, NHS Resolution – on behalf of the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust – admitted that Mrs Bailey should not have been prescribed dihydrocodeine because her pain levels were not severe enough to warrant such a strong drug. Once it had been prescribed, the trust accepts she was not monitored properly to assess for any side effects.

The trust also admitted that it had failed to carry out a number of important assessments during Mrs Bailey’s time in their care, including a mental capacity assessment when Mrs Bailey was admitted. It also admitted that her safeguard wristband, which alerts staff if a patient leaves the ward, wasn’t working and had not been checked, even though Mrs Bailey was in an agitated state and repeatedly asked to go outside for a cigarette.

The letter said: “In light of the admissions, it is accepted that, on the balance of probabilities, the [trust’s] treatment contributed to the death. The trust apologises for the shortcomings in care that was provided to Ms Bailey and extends its condolences to [her] family.”

Last year, Black Country area coroner Joanne Lees recorded an open verdict into Mrs Bailey’s death, because it was impossible to establish for certain how she had received such large quantities of the drug while in the hospital. The inquest had heard that Mrs Bailey was admitted to an ear, nose and throat ward at New Cross on December 19 after having major nose bleeds, and she was suffering from anxiety and alcohol withdrawal.

Mrs Bailey died in the early hours of December 22 despite attempts at resuscitation. She was initially given dihydrocodeine on an as-needed basis, but on December 21 that changed to up to four doses at regular intervals during the day.

The hospital’s records show she was given the drug at 8.54am, 2.08pm and 10.06pm. Mrs Bailey was seen by a doctor after apparently developing hallucinations and messaged her family to say her “head was all over the place”.

She died at 1.30am the following morning. The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust has been contacted for comment.

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