Mum hopes lessons have been learned

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COUNCIL watchdogs have called for better communication between health staff when caring for disabled patients after claims a woman was sent home from hospital with painkillers despite later needing treatment for a broken neck.

An investigation was launched after 30-year-old Debbie Fowler was sent home with paracetamol and antibiotics after being examined at One Life Hartlepool.

She was later rushed to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, and then transferred to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

Her mum, Diane Fowler, said she now hopes lessons have been learned after Hartlepool Borough Council conducted an investigation into the case.

The probe by the council’s safeguarding team has recommended that communications between health and care providers should be improved in all cases where a person who cannot communicate properly has been injured.

Diane, 47, appeared in the Hartlepool Mail in February to tell how staff at One Life Hartlepool twice failed to diagnose her daughter’s condition after she had suffered a fall at the Lancastria Care Home, in Elwick Road, where she lives.

Debbie was rushed to hospital four days after being sent home with painkillers and needed emergency surgery for a broken neck.

There were further complications when she contracted pneumonia and fought for life for 11 days.

Diane, who lives off Huckelhoven Way, in Hartlepool, had called for One Life Hartlepool staff to receive better training in the care of disabled patients.

She told the Mail: “It took a wake-up call like what happened to Debbie for this to come out, but I’m happy with the findings.

“It took the safeguarding meetings and the article in the newspaper to make the authorities address the issue.”

A council spokesman said: “Under the terms of the Tees-wide adult safeguarding procedures, we are not able to comment on the personal details of individual cases.

“We have made recommendations for improvements in the level of information which should be provided and how this should be exchanged between health and care providers in cases where a person who cannot properly communicate for themselves has sustained a possible injury.

“All parties involved have accepted these recommendations.”

Sue Smith, director of nursing and patient safety for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have been very willing to support this investigation.

“It is important for people to remember, that in line with the changes made to services in 2007, if people are concerned about the severity of a person’s injuries, the first course of action should be to phone 999.”

Karen Harkin, operations director at Voyage Care, which runs Lancastria Care Home, said Debbie is now back at home and progressing well.

She added: “The health and wellbeing of the people we support is our number one priority and we aim to provide the best and most professional care we can at all times.

“The safeguarding investigation into this incident has now been concluded and we have agreed the recommendations with the safeguarding team.”

A spokeswoman for the CQC (Care Quality Commission) said the organisation is aware of the findings and will continue to monitor standards of care at One Life Hartlepool.