Relatives of Peggy Davis have complained about her treatment at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in the days before she died from pneumonia.
They say that after being admitted to the ERI following a fall at her sheltered housing complex in Tranent, she was found to have a blockage in her abdomen, and was put on to a drip and ordered to be nil-by-mouth ahead of surgery.
However, her daughter Christine Riding, 49, said the surgery was repeatedly postponed leaving Mrs Davis, 84, who did not eat for eight days, growing weaker.
An investigation by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has now ruled that her care in August 2010 was appropriate and rejected the family’s complaint. But Mrs Riding still believes that the prolonged period without food contributed to her death.
Repeated requests to carry out a fresh scan on her mother were refused, she said.
She said: “For the actual care of my mum they said it was OK – I think that’s garbage.”
“They said that she would need an operation to clear the blockage in her abdomen, but they never once said what it was and they didn’t feed her in preparation for an operation.
“This went on for eight days and every day we were asking ‘Why hasn’t it been done?’, and they were saying things like ‘Emergencies came in’.”
She said that eventually doctors decided not to operate on Mrs Davis and she was given soft food, but found it hard to swallow. She was also prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection, but, too weak to fight the bug off, caught pneumonia, and died.
The Ombudsman ruled that the care given to Mrs Davis was appropriate but blasted NHS Lothian for poor communication. The Ombudsman said that Mrs Davis “had a number of pre-existing medical conditions, which meant that she did not have the physical reserves to cope with the complications that followed her fall”. But it said hospital staff should be reminded about the importance of good communication with relatives, and about dealing quickly with complaints.
Mrs Riding said: “Yes, it’s lack of communication, but it doesn’t answer why she didn’t get more scans or X-rays to look if the blockage had cleared.
“I felt angry, because we couldn’t understand how they were putting the operation off.”
Melanie Hornett, nurse director at NHS Lothian, said: “We accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations in full and we have already taken action to ensure that communication is improved.
“However, we also note the Ombudsman’s ruling that the appropriate care and treatment was provided to Mrs Davis.
“I have written to Mrs Davis’s family to formally apologise and I would like to repeat that apology publicly.”