Lister Hospital patient, 73, died 10 minutes after being discharged following broken ankle

Barry and Joan Foster. She died 10 minutes after being discharged from Lister Hospital.

Barry and Joan Foster. She died 10 minutes after being discharged from Lister Hospital. - Credit: Foster family

The husband of a 73-year-old woman who died 10 minutes after being discharged from hospital for a fractured ankle is still calling for answers two years after her death.

Joan Holland, who had lived in WGC since she was eight, had been admitted to Lister Hospital on Wednesday March 4 2020 for treatment to her injured foot, and her ankle was put into plaster.

Barry, her husband of 50 years, explained: "They said to her 'you'll probably be able to go home on Friday evening'.

“On the Friday morning, they did a NEWS Test [a National Early Warning Score to improve detection and response to patients' deterioration] which showed a slightly high reading [of a pulmonary embolism], so they said they would do another one on Friday afternoon, and if it was still high, they would take her in for another two or three days, to rectify the problem."

Letters from the hospital say that treatment had been started by the doctors for this issue and was considered to be appropriate for discharge. 

"Late on the Friday, she rang me up and said, 'I can come home now'. So, I picked her up from Lister at about 6 in the evening... I pulled on to the A1M to come back to Welwyn and after 10 minutes, she collapsed and died in my car.  

"It came out in the inquest that the NEWS Test that should’ve been taken that afternoon, but it never happened, it was forgotten. The hospital admitted that at the inquest.”

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Barry said he has been left devastated and angry with the hospital, and said they have not taken responsibility for Joan’s passing two years later, with the cause of death concluded as an accident.  

He said Lister Hospital has made multiple excuses for why the test had not been done: “She could’ve been in the toilet, we couldn’t find her, we don’t know what happened, she wandered out the ward. They wouldn’t take any responsibility for the job, except their condolences.” 

Barry said he stood up at Joan's inquest and fought back, saying: “You mean she could’ve wandered off on a foot that she wasn’t allowed to put on the floor. How could she hop around and walk?

“She would’ve died anyway, there’s nothing we could’ve done. But if the test had been taken, at least she would’ve had more chance of a recovery in hospital than in my car on the A1M,” Barry added.

After Joan collapsed in Barry’s car, he called 999 and agreed to meet the paramedics outside his house, five minutes away. Their son Peter was at home and helped the paramedic get her out of the car, lay her on the road and start CPR while the paramedic got his equipment out.  

The police officer told Barry to go inside the house: “They told me, 'you don’t want to be watching this, you shouldn’t have to see this. I will keep you informed of what’s going on'.”

Over an hour later, the officer told Barry, “They think they’ve got a trace of a pulse, so we’re going to take her in the ambulance back to Lister.”

Barry waited at the hospital again but a few minutes later was told that Joan was dead when she had arrived.  

The paramedics waited for Barry at his house to check up on him to reassure him that she actually died in his car, in the warmth, not laying in the cold, on the road.

Barry wanted to take the case to civil court but when he inquired about it, he was warned that there would be multiple costs they he would have to cover to see it through.  

He added: “[The hospital] totally refuse to acknowledge that they made any mistake. Two years later I feel the same as the day I took her home and she died in my car, absolutely distraught. It’s like it happened yesterday. There isn’t one day that goes by where I don’t think about it

" It’s the same for my son. We should've never witnessed what happened. If they had kept her in hospital for two or three days and done that test, at least she would’ve died with doctor and nurses in hospital and not laying in the cold in March."

A spokesperson for East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs Lister Hospital, said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to Mr Holland for the sad death of his wife, Joan.

“We have fully investigated the circumstances surrounding Joan’s death, and a coroner’s inquest has also taken place.

“While we always look for ways in which we can improve, both our own investigation and the coroner’s concluded that regrettably Joan died of complications following an accident – and the care she received at the trust did not contribute to her death.

“We have been in contact with Mr Holland throughout the investigation, and would ask that he gets back in touch if he would like to discuss his wife’s care further.”