Woman ‘given painkillers for broken neck’

Diane Fowler.
Diane Fowler.
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A FURIOUS mum claims her severely disabled daughter was given painkillers and sent home by medics who failed to spot she had broken her neck.

Diane Fowler says staff at One Life Hartlepool misdiagnosed her 29-year-old daughter Debbie Fowler’s condition twice.

Diane said Debbie, who is unable to verbally communicate, was in so much pain from a fall that she had bitten her hands almost to the bone.

But medics prescribed paracetamol and antibiotics for her bitten hands before discharging her.

Just hours later, concerned staff from the care home where Debbie lives took her back to One Life but she was released after being x-rayed and told she “probably had a headache”, Diane claims.

She was rushed to hospital four days later and needed emergency surgery for a broken neck.

An investigation has now been launched by health chiefs and Hartlepool Borough Council’s safeguarding team into the matter.

Today Debbie’s shocked family slammed the £20m Park Road-based centre and called for more training to be given to its staff in the way they deal with mentally-ill patients.

Diane, 47, said: “I’m devastated.

“Her broken neck should have been spotted.”

She said it was only four days after the incident, when Diane demanded One Life staff get an ambulance to take Debbie to hospital, that medics at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, finally diagnosed the fracture.

Diane says doctors told her the fracture was so severe they were surprised she had not been left paralysed.

Debbie was rushed to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough for emergency surgery.

Thankfully, Debbie, who turns 30 on Thursday, is now on the mend at the Lancastria Care Home, in Elwick Road, where she has lived for the past four years.

Debbie, who was left profoundly disabled after having a stroke as a baby, was injured after a fall in the early hours of January 18.

She was taken to One Life at 8am and given upper body x-rays but nothing was found to be broken.

Debbie was given paracetamol and painkillers and sent home.

But care home staff returned to One Life with Debbie later that day as they were concerned she may have had a head injury.

This time her lower body was x-rayed, but again, no broken bones were found.

Diane added: “They just said she probably had a headache and sent her home.”

Four days later, Diane returned to One Life and demanded that an ambulance take Debbie to hospital.

At North Tees, medics recognised immediately that Debbie had a fractured neck and an ambulance rushed her to James Cook University Hospital.

She had six hours of surgery to insert metal plates in her neck.

But there were complications when she contracted pneumonia and fought for life for 11 days.

Diane, whose partner, Graeme Richardson, is a 47-year-old policeman, said: “She seems back to her normal self – she’s like Wonderwoman.

“I just want the One Life staff to have better skills and start getting some sort of training with special needs patients.

“If someone can’t speak and there is something wrong, don’t send them home with paracetamol, send them to hospital to have proper checks.”

A spokeswoman for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “An investigation is underway between all the agencies involved in Debbie’s care to establish the facts in this case.”

A council spokesman said: “Under the Tees-wide adult safeguarding procedures we have a duty to investigate matters of this kind and we can confirm that an investigation is currently underway.”

Karen Harkin, operations director for Voyage Care, which operates Lancastria Care Home, said: “We have reported this matter to the relevant local authorities and we have also alerted the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and RIDDOR, the relevant body within the Health and Safety Executive.”

A CQC spokeswoman said: “CQC are aware of the incident and are awaiting the outcome of the investigation by Hartlepool Borough Council.”