Family take legal action after bed delay 'led to patient's death'

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Ms Muldowney was first admitted to East Surrey Hospital with a suspected brain bleed

The family of a woman who died of a brain haemorrhage after an intensive care delay has begun legal action.

An inquest found Mary Muldowney, 57, probably would have survived if she had been transferred for surgery more quickly.

Doctors in Surrey had asked for an immediate transfer last July, but several units had no beds available.

Her son, Sean, said the family did not want the same thing to happen to another patient.

Ms Muldowney was first admitted to East Surrey Hospital with a suspected brain bleed.

'Take responsibility'

Doctors requested an immediate transfer to a neurosurgical unit after a scan showed heavy bleeding.

Three units - St George's and King's College hospitals in London and the Royal Sussex in Brighton - refused.

Other hospitals also said they had no available intensive care beds.

The inquest heard Ms Muldowney was eventually transferred to Royal London Hospital after a Surrey doctor "went out of area" in "desperation", but surgery did not save her.

Ms Muldowneys' daughter, Sharon Callan, said: "It's really really upsetting to hear that your mum should and could be alive."

Image caption,
Ms Muldowney's children said "she didn't need a bed, she needed emergency surgery"

Her son Sean added: "Somebody needs to take responsibility for that, and unless somebody takes responsibility for that, and admits that there may have been a mistake somewhere along the line, you are not going to fix that error. That error will reoccur."

Irwin Mitchell solicitor Leanne Leighton said: "Her family want answers and to prevent it happening again."

Ms Leighton said: "The revelations at the inquest came as a shock to [the family].

"They were not aware of the full extent of the issues surrounding the availability of a bed. That is what we are going to investigate."

She added: "Tragically it is too late for Mary but her family want to prevent it happening again to another family."

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust both said at the time of referral Ms Muldowney "was not deemed to require life-saving surgery".

The Brighton hospital trust said it often took neurosurgical patients in emergency situations "even if we have no beds available", while St George's said it never "refused emergency admissions that require specialist care for any reason".

King's College Hospital said patient transfers were only accepted "when medical specialists have been consulted and it is clinically safe to do so".

It said it continues to see "high demand" but a new critical care centre was under construction and would add "significant capacity".

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