39-year-old left for months in dementia ward
When Glenrothes multiple sclerosis sufferer Claire Thomson was found in agony and rushed into Victoria Hospital suffering from numerous pressure sores – the worst of which was so big it could fit a man’s fist – little did she know it was only the start of what she has since called her “living nightmare”.
As if the agony of the wounds was not enough, following three months of medical attention at Victoria, the woman has since been transferred to Cameron Hospital, in Windygates ... to a ward for over-65 dementia patients to continue her rehabilitation.
Told it was the only bed available, she is still there four months on – despite repeated requests to be allowed to return home.
The family claims that is due to Fife Council not being able to meet the cost of home care provision, either by the local authority, or a cheaper third-party independent company.
The 39-year-old former emergency services employee, who has lived with MS since she was 21, was rushed to the Kirkcaldy hospital on July 12 last year on the order of her district nurse, following complaints from Claire’s sister, Karen Thomson.
She told the visiting nurse her sister was in agony and demanded she undress the wounds so they could see the full extent of her suffering.
What they found was various pressure sores in such a state of advance that, on her arrival at the Kirkcaldy hospital, medical staff immediately designated the breakdown of Claire’s skin tissue to that of category four – the most severe rating possible.
A CRP blood test, designed to measure the amount of inflammation in the blood stream, confirmed the rate of C-reactive proteins in her blood cells was 13 times higher than the normal rate for a healthy adult.
She was found to be suffering from septicaemia caused by the infected sores.
Claire and her family say the sores are a result of her being left in the shower or three hours at a time each morning between home care visits, and they have written to senior service managers lodging a formal complaint.
The authority has refuted the charge, saying it acted on Claire’s requirements and her insistence to remain independent within her own home, and said it was her decision to remain on the chair for that length of time.
“It defies belief that someone who is employed to care for Claire could allow these injuries to develop to such serious extent,” Karen told the Gazette.
“Claire is registered blind and paralysed from below the waist down. How could she see what was happening to her?
“Those running the Council’s care package are ducking the issue here.
“Care staff were employed to do exactly that – care for her – and they have failed.
“She was put in her chair at 8.30 a.m. at the time of her first home care visit of the day and left there for three hours until the next carer came. That is wholly unacceptable for someone with Claire’s condition.
‘‘We are disgusted the way in which she has been treated,” she added.
Following the completion of medical care, Claire was transferred to Cameron Hospital on September 17 and put on a ward consisting of elderly dementia patients, something both Claire and her family say is totally inappropriate.
“I was told it was because there were no beds at hospitals anywhere else so I ended up here,” said Claire.
“I’ve been asking to be released home for over two months now and, every time, I’m refused.
‘‘I was told by one social worker involved in my case that I needed to understand there was a recession on and I could go home if I was able to pay the costs of my home care myself.
“I’ve feel like I’ve just been forgotten about and it’s getting more demoralising every day that I’m still stuck in here,” she added.
The family has been told her case has been discussed at meetings on three separate occasions - December 12, 23 and January 8. Each time, Claire says she was told she would remain at Cameron.
The Gazette understands a further meeting scheduled for January 22 was cancelled due to various health officials not being able attend, leaving her further frustrated.
With no sign of a release date, the family are now taking legal advice with the possibility of taking the matter further.
“It’s a disgraceful affair,’’ said Karen. ‘‘No-one is prepared to accept responsibility and that is simply not right. We are considering our options of taking this matter further. We haven’t had any satisfactory explanations so far and we intend to get some.
“The one thing not in doubt is the care that Claire was entitled to has failed, resulting in her terrible suffering.
‘‘We want answers as to why that was allowed to happen and want to know what is being done to allow it not to happen to anyone else in future.’’
‘Joint care approach’ taken, says Council
The family of Claire Thomson released some of their letters to Fife Council to highlight their frustrations.
In an official complaint to the social work service, Miss Thomson contests Fife Council’s claim she was informed of the advancement of her condition, highlighting that care staff were required to change pads up to four times daily and that at no time, as far as she was concerned, was she informed of the advancement of her condition.
She has appealed the authority’s decision not to uphold her complaint and is currently considering legal advice.
The correspendence from the Council said a ‘‘joint care approach’’ had been taken which included district nursing and home care services.
There were, the letters said, ‘‘regular visits to ensure all health and care needs were met and taken into account’’ and they added: ‘‘This joint care approach supported Miss Thomson’s views and wishes so that she could remain as independent as possible.”
The Gazette asked Fife Council to give an indication of the diference in costs for Miss Thomson’s home care package prior to her admission, against the cost of the same service being provided by an outside agency – understood to be a viable consideration – versus the cost of her current and continuing care being received at Cameron Hospital.
Paul Basset, service manager, said: “Ms Thomson has been and will be provided a level of care that is required to meet her needs. Care packages can increase or decrease in accordance with individual circumstances. Home care is one element of the care delivered to Ms Thomson. I am aware she also receives services from NHS Fife.”