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Mother Aged 90 Left to Die Alone as Daughter Waited Outside

Published on: 23 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 25 Mar, 2021

Doris Tompsett – Photo supplied by her daughter Rosalyn Giles

By Julia Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Ninety-year-old Doris Tompsett was left to die alone in her Surrey care home although her daughter, Rosalyn Giles, was kept waiting in a nearby room.

In August, 2019, Mrs Giles said she had a phone call from the Bupa-run Puttenham Hill home near Guildford, saying her mother, who had a lung condition and was kept on oxygen, had breathing difficulties and a headache.

At the home, she was left in reception, unaware paramedics had been called for her mother. Ms Giles asked the agency nurse about her mother’s condition, but when she got no clear answer after 15 minutes, she entered her room.

She was stunned to find her mum had died, with dried blood on the floor.

“I had kept asking is she all right and she [the nurse] wouldn’t answer and that’s why I went to her room,” said Mrs Giles, of Ash. “It was an absolute shock to see my mum like that, and all on her own.

“I feel guilty that I wasn’t there. My mum would have been frightened, and that’s what upsets me.”

A coroner’s inquest found Mrs Tompsett had suffered a brain haemorrhage, which would have been difficult to spot, but the local government and social care ombudsman, who investigates complaints about care homes, said action taken in response was not appropriate.

He said although the sudden death meant it may have been necessary to leave Mrs Tompsett untouched, staff should have warned her daughter before she entered the room.

Ombudsman Michael King added: “The daughter was not able to be with her mother as she died and her mother should not have been alone in the final moments of her life.

“Nobody should be left to find their mother in this way when they could have been prepared for the situation.

“But I cannot imagine the distress caused for this to then be compounded by a lack of compassion by care staff in the immediate aftermath.”

After paramedics arrived, the nurse walked past Mrs Giles a few times but did not speak to her or offer sympathy.

The ombudsman also found the care home did not have an effective way of working with the NHS to ensure Mrs Tompsett had timely medical care from paramedics.

The ambulance’s automated system reported a call made 12 minutes later than the time given by the nurse.

A safeguarding inquiry by Surrey County Council (SCC), who arranged and funded the care home for Mrs Tompsett, found having only one nurse on duty was not sufficient.

They said they were now regularly monitoring the care provider to make sure they always have enough qualified staff on duty and are giving all care staff training in bereavement communication skills.

An SCC spokesperson said: “We’re also making sure this case informs our wider working with private and independent care providers to ensure end-of-life care is always handled with the sensitivity and professionalism that deserves.

“This should not have happened and we’re very sorry for the family involved for the distress this has caused them.”

The council has also apologised to the family and made a recommended payment of £500.

Mrs Giles had lived with her mum for 24 years before her condition deteriorated. “She had celebrated her 90th birthday that year,” she said. “You never want them to go when they’re so important to you.

“You expect a home to offer that specialist care, and she didn’t get it.”

Linda Marks, regional director for the Bupa home, said: “This was an isolated incident and doesn’t reflect present practices at the home.

“We pride ourselves on high standards but fell short in this instance, and we have sincerely apologised to the family.

“In the years since, we’ve introduced comprehensive measures to prevent it from happening again. These include further staff training and a significant reduction in the use of agency staff.”

The agency nurse providing cover has not worked at the home since the tragedy.

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