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‘We don’t have enough staff’: Ward where 79 year old woman fell was not safe, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 18:35 10 December 2018

Sheila Coley, 79, from Thetford, died at West Suffolk Hospital in July 8, 2017. At the inquest into her death at Norfolk Coroners Court on Monday (December 10), her daughter, Lucy Wheatley, said: “I cannot help but think that the staff did not provide my mother with sufficient level of care she needed.”

Sheila Coley, 79, from Thetford, died at West Suffolk Hospital in July 8, 2017. At the inquest into her death at Norfolk Coroners Court on Monday (December 10), her daughter, Lucy Wheatley, said: “I cannot help but think that the staff did not provide my mother with sufficient level of care she needed.”

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A nurse has told an inquest into the death of a 79-year-old woman at a Suffolk hospital that the ward where the patient fell was not safe because of a staff shortage.

Carrow House, where Norfolk Coroner's Court is based. Picture: ANTONY KELLYCarrow House, where Norfolk Coroner's Court is based. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Sheila Coley, 79, of Castle Street, Thetford, died at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on July 8 last year.

At the inquest into her death at Norfolk Coroners Court on Monday (December 10) her daughter, Lucy Wheatley, said that on June 21 last year her mother was taken to the hospital suffering from hyponatremia, or low sodium level in the blood.

She said that she was reassured that her mother would be looked after but the next day, at 7.30am, she got a phonecall from the hospital saying her mother had fallen during the night and broken her hip.

“I felt distressed,” Mrs Wheatley said, “because I thought she would be safe.”

The inquest heard that Mrs Wheatley went to the hospital and was on the ward from 8.45 to 3.45pm but that nobody told her what was happening, with staff “rushing around” and “very snappy” if approached.

Mrs Coley was operated on and stayed in the hospital to recover, the inquest was told.

Mrs Wheatley said that over the following days she was given “no indication” of how ill her mother was and that on July 7, at 8.30pm, she was called into the hospital, where her mother was “gasping”.

Mrs Coley died at 3.30am, the inquest heard.

“I cannot help but think that the staff did not provide my mother with sufficient level of care she needed,” Mrs Wheatley said.

Emma Nunn, the nurse in charge of the ward where Ms Coley had fallen, told the inquest that she was not informed Ms Coley was at high risk of wandering or getting out of bed by herself.

The inquest heard there were 34 beds on the ward and that the hospital was under-staffed. “We are rarely at full staffing,” Ms Nunn said, “that’s the norm.”

Just before 3am Ms Nunn was taking an observation when she heard a “loud bang” followed by a lady shouting ‘help me’.

She found Mrs Coley lying on the floor, the inquest was told.

Referring to the staff shortage, Ms Nunn said, “It wasn’t safe, even when we first started the shift. We don’t have enough staff.”

Maureen Uzor was the nurse allocated to Mrs Coley that night, the inquest heard. She said that she said hello to Mrs Comey and that the patient settled straightaway and that she was asleep before the nurse went on her break at 2am.

Senior Coroner Jacqueline Lake will deliver her conclusion on the causes of Mrs Coley’s death on Tuesday (December 11).

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