A 103-year-old was left without food for two days after a miscommunication between hospital staff, reports Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor
Essex veteran Norman Hubble died at Whipps Cross Hospital on 26th December 2019 from a lung infection while recovering from surgery for a broken leg after falling at home.
Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard that, after his third day in hospital, his doctor decided he should only be fed under supervision due to a long-term throat problem that meant he struggled to eat.
However, a nurse misread his patient notes and he was not fed at all – a consequence, his wife claimed, of “a lazy atmosphere” at the hospital.
In a witness statement read out to the court, Norman’s wife Yvonne said that, on his final day, he told her: “If I don’t have a cup of tea and a biscuit, I will die.”
She wrote: “My husband was let down in his life by the lack of care and urgency given to him.”
The hospital’s senior nurse Rahul Luka apologised to Norman’s family for the “basic things which were done wrong” and assured them Whipps Cross had “taken lessons” from it.
East London coroner Graeme Irvine concluded the failure to feed Norman was a “significant error” that made his final days worse but not a direct cause of his death.
He said: “One can’t imagine how it must be during the seasonal period to be recovering from a broken hip when one is 103 but that is made even worse when you can’t even have sustenance.
“It seems to me that nurses had a cursive look at the notes, saw the words ‘nil by mouth’ and followed that instruction.
“What is clear is that this is a gentleman of his generation: he was stoic, independent and uncomplaining. It is very rare that I deal with a case of a man who made it to 103 and saw active service.
“The information from family is that he was a formidable man. He managed to get to an old age with very little medical issues whatsoever.”
Coroner Irvine recorded the death as accidental, rather than natural causes, due to his view that Norman’s illness would not have happened if he had not fallen at home.