A heartbroken daughter, who has fought for seven years to see action taken over the care given to her father before he died of heart failure, says she may never get over her ordeal - in spite of a doctor involved facing increased monitoring.
Shirley Cooper has received notification from the General Medical Council (GMC) that an investigation following a complaint she lodged against Dr Joel Ajewole - claiming he ‘failed to properly assess’ her father, Reg - is now complete.
The letter from the GMC investigations officer Steven Frankland outlines 15 undertakings which Dr Ajewole now follows. It states: “Following our investigation into Dr Ajewole’s overall fitness to practice, we have decided to agree untertakings with Dr Ajewole.”
Among the undertakings, Dr Ajewole has to ‘agree to inform the GMC of any post he accepts’ and ‘report any formal disiplinary proceedings against him within seven days of being notified’. He also has to agree to ‘design a personal development plan (PDP), approved by a responsible officer’, and ‘address deficiencies’ such as maintaining professional performance, assessment, clinical management, safety and quality, relationships with patients and working with colleagues.
An emotional Shirley, of Winthorpe, last spoke to The Standard in 2012, after receiving confirmation from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) of the service’s failure three years earlier.
It was in January 2009 that 80-year-old Reg was taken to Skegness Hospital and then transferred to Boston Pilgrim Hospital after complaining of chest pains at home.
The PHSO report, which followed a 10-month investigation, confirmed failings with the standards of care offered to Mr Cooper and the handling of Shirley’s complaint by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT), which operates Pilgrim Hospital.
Despite a history of heart problems and paramedics noting symptoms consistent with a cardiac arrest, medical staff at 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.
She said: “If my dad had died after receiving proper care and treatment I could have accepted that - he was 80 years old after all. But to know that he could have had a better chance of survival has meant I’ve been unable to let it rest.”
In 2012, after ther PHSO report,she told our reporter she believed her fight had been worth it and hoped she could finally start to move on. But she said she felt there were still questions to be answered and she took her complaint to the General Medical Council.
The copy of the 15 undertakings listed for Dr Ajewole by the the GMC covers four pages. An ‘expert’ states: “Failure of Dr Ajewole to take into account (Mr Cooper’s) past medical history of ischemic heart disease, non-specific findings on the ECG carried out by the ambulance crew and refer to the Medical Team fell below the standard of a reasonably competent Staff grade Doctor in the Accident and Emergency.”
The report concluded: “I do not believe the overall care provided by Dr Ajewole fell seriously below the standard of reasonable competent Staff grade Doctor in Accident and Emergency. We agree that patient safety and public confidence can be protected by offering him the opportunity to agree the undertakings.”
However, the undertakings offer little comfort to Shirley. She said: “I’ve been fighting for so long it has become my life. I always thought I would like a memorial for dad when it was all over so I could mourn for him properly. But it’s broken our family because they thought I should have given up years ago.”
A statement by Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director, reiterated the ULHT’s previous apologies.
Dr Kapadia said: “I can confirm that ULHT did not renew Dr Joel Ajewole’s contract in October 2014. I would like to reiterate ULHT’s previous apologies and personally offer my sincere condolences to Miss Cooper on the death of her father.”
The GMC said it was unable to comment on individual cases but confirmed Dr Ajewole is currently registered with a licence to practise but does have undertakings (as listed above) on that licence.