‘Lessons learnt’ over gran who died after a week without food and water at Welwyn Garden City hospital

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 August 2012

QE2 hospital

QE2 hospital


HEALTH bosses have sworn the death of a grandmother – who went seven days without food or water while waiting for surgery – will never happen again.

Joan Pertoldi died on September 7, 2009, having spent almost a month waiting for a hip operation at the QE2 Hospital in WGC that was cancelled several times – because equipment had not been sterilised or surgeons were not available.

The usually healthy 76-year-old, from Fordwich Road, WGC, was left nil-by-mouth for a week, fell while being assisted by nurses and contracted superbug clostridium difficile as her condition deteriorated.

Her death made national headlines this week, as the family considers taking legal action against the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

But while the trust accepts many of the failings surrounding her death, it insists there will never be a repeat.

Director of nursing Angela Thompson said: “We extended our deepest sympathies at the time to the family and do so again, along with our desire to ensure that lessons were learnt – which we believe has been the case.”

Following an inquest in 2010, coroner Edward Thomas wrote to trust chief executive Nick Carver asking what actions had been taken following the death.

Mr Carver’s response outlined a series of measures, including the new elective surgery unit at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, with patients with fractured neck of femur treated at a separate dedicated unit, The Princes Wing, at the QE2.

Mr Carver wrote: “Whilst the delays and cancellations Mrs Pertoldi experienced are fortunately rare, these developments will ensure that our patients receive care in accordance with best practice standards.”

Mr Carver also said that problems with sterilisation had been resolved.

“The kit required for Mrs Pertoldi’s operation was of a specific type, which had to be ordered specifically for her operation,” he wrote.

“This is why when the kit was found not to meet the required standard of sterilisation, the operation had to be cancelled.

“We have now, in addition to having this specialised equipment in stock, bought another set so that a spare would be available for use in the rare event that the other was not suitable.”

Ms Thompson added: “We’re very aware of the deep upset that Mrs Pertoldi’s death caused her family, about which we are very sorry.

“But as the trust’s response to the coroner’s letter shows, the issues raised have been addressed to his satisfaction. We hope that this is something that the family also recognises.”

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