Skegness daughter’s four year fight for justice after dad’s death at Boston Pilgrim

Shirley and Reg Cooper.
Shirley and Reg Cooper.

A heartbroken daughter can finally begin mourning her father’s death after a four year fight for justice confirmed the medical failings she had believed all along.

Shirley Cooper says the anguish she suffered knowing her loved one had not been treated properly before his death at Boston Pilgrim in 2009 left her unable to grieve and caused terrible strains on her personal life as she battled for answers.

Now, having received confirmation from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) of the service’s failure, she believes her fight has been worth it and hopes she can finally start to move on.

“I don’t think I’d ever broken down properly after his death but I had tears streaming down my face when I read that report,” she said.

“These past years have been like one long nightmare - it’s been stressful, tiring and upsetting and I still don’t know why my dad died but at least now I’ve got some answers.”

Shirley told the PHSO that a delay in diagnosing her father, Reg Cooper’s heart condition had led to the fatal heart attack he suffered while left unattended on a commode.

The report, published in February following a 10 month investigation, confirmed failings with the standards of care offered to Reg Cooper and the handling of Shirley’s complaint by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which operates Boston Pilgrim Hospital.

Concluding his report, interim director of health investigations Martin Pike said: “I found that the medical care provided for Mr Cooper by the trust fell significantly below the applicable standard.

“Furthermore, I found maladministration in the way the trust handled Miss Cooper’s complaint.”

Reg was taken to Skegness Hospital and then Boston Pilgrim in January 2009 after complaining of chest pains at home.

Despite a history of heart problems and paramedics noting symptoms consistent with a cardiac arrest, medical staff at Boston Pilgrim were said to have focused primarily on gall bladder problems.

There were also delays receiving blood tests, which Shirley felt could have alerted doctors to the cardiac issues behind his death.

“If my dad had died after receiving proper care and treatment I could have accepted that - he was 80 years old after all,” she said.

“But to know that he could have had a better chance of survival has meant I’ve been unable to let it rest.”

The report agreed there were service failures, but couldn’t confirm those caused his death.

“What I can say, is that this service failure by the trust contributed to the injustice that an opportunity was missed to provide Mr Cooper with treatment that would have given him a higher chance of survival and this has added to Miss Cooper’s ongoing stress,” Mr Pike said.

The PHSO also criticised Skegness Hospital for its failure to report Reg’s medication to medical staff when he was transferred to Boston.

It also told the trust it should have dealt with Shirley’s concerns ‘more sensitively’ and apologised for the distress it caused her.

Although the trust apologised for the delay in obtaining the blood test results, it said Reg’s death was a ‘sudden and unexpected event’ which was why he had not been monitored more closely.

The trust has been recommended to compensate Shirley, offer a full written acknowledgement of the service failure and provide a sincere apology for the injustices identified.

It has also been asked to prepare an action plan looking into ways of resolving the identified failures.

In a joint statement, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS)said: “ULHT has contacted Miss Cooper following the PHSO report and has apologised unreservedly for failing to meet her father’s needs at Pilgrim Hospital in 2009.

“We fully accept the PHSO’s report and will implement the recommendations made in order to improve the care we provide our patients in the future.

“The trust will provide Miss Cooper with an action plan outlining the action we have taken, and plan to take, to avoid a recurrence of these failings in the future.

“Since Mr Cooper’s death, the operation of Skegness Urgent Care Centre has been handed over to LCHS.

“LCHS has actioned the recommendations relating to improvements to this service, which includes having testing facilities for analysing blood.

“ULHT will share the trust’s action plan with Miss Cooper in May.”

Now the report has helped alleviate Shirley’s sense of injustice, she hopes she can move on, though she fears the resurfacing of emotions may be overwhelming.

“There’s going to be a time when this all comes out,” she said,

“I’m worried I’m going to have a big melt down - some days I feel like smashing the house up.”