Family hits out at Serco over fall

Salisbury Journal: Joy Saunders' husband is taking legal action against private healthcare provider Serco, which solicitors say failed to protect her Joy Saunders' husband is taking legal action against private healthcare provider Serco, which solicitors say failed to protect her

An elderly woman was left fighting for her life after falling from bed during her first night in hospital.

Joy Saunders suffered a major brain haemorrhage after the incident but solicitors say that despite her incoherent speech and nasty facial bruising, proper tests were not carried out for two days.

The 76-year-old, from Ipswich, has required 24-hour care since the fall in November last year and was recently admitted to a hospice.

Her family have been warned she is in her final days of life.

Her husband David Saunders is now preparing to take legal action on her behalf against private healthcare provider Serco, which solicitors say failed to protect Mrs Saunders.

Medical negligence specialist Ben Ward, of Ashton KCJ, said: "We hear so many terrible stories of elderly care provision.

"On this occasion, what has frustrated Mr Saunders as well as the injury is the lack of compassion and care shown towards Joy.

"Not once did anyone pick up the phone to see how she was recovering.

"Not once did anybody apologise until the complaint was eventually dealt with.

"This really isn't the way that patients' families should be treated following an incident like this."

The fall happened in the physiotherapy care unit at Bluebird Lodge, Ipswich, a community hospital run by Serco on behalf of the NHS as part of a £190 million Suffolk Community Healthcare contract.

She had been admitted on November 27 last year, following a stroke whilst on holiday in Spain.

Mr Saunders specifically asked nursing staff to erect bed rails to prevent her falling out in her distressed state.

But early the next morning he received a call telling him his wife had been found lying on the floor.

It is not clear how long she had been on the floor or what steps had been taken to prevent a fall.

When he visited her he said he was shocked by the bruising to her face and found her uncommunicative and dazed.

Despite raising concerns, it was not until two days later that scans were carried out which identified the brain haemorrhage, solicitors said.

Mr Saunders was told that, if her condition deteriorated, his wife would not be resuscitated. Ever since, she has required around-the-clock care and her family said she has "little or no quality of life".

Serco said it would not comment on an individual case.

Sharon Colclough, director of community services, said: "We will investigate this allegation."

Mr Ward said Mrs Saunders' case was "very typical" of the type of complaints being brought against Serco, adding that he had pursued similar claims on behalf of other vulnerable patients.

Last month, the Ipswich and East and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, which issued the contract, raised concerns over Serco missing key targets including fall assessments.

"If private companies are to be trusted with our NHS, these basic steps cannot be ignored. Standards must improve," Mr Ward added.

"It looks rather like staff under pressure, an issue which if true Serco must address."

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