Hospital apologises to woman who was unable to visit her dying son in his final weeks

A hospital has apologised to a woman who was prevented from seeing her dying son in his final weeks.

Ollie Bibby, 27, of South Benfleet in Essex, died of leukaemia on May 5 at University College London Hospital (UCLH).

The hospital has pledged to review how it implements national visiting guidance during the pandemic.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer raised the case at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, noting that Mr Bibby died the day before CCTV footage captured then-health secretary Matt Hancock breaching social distancing rules in an embrace with aide Gina Coladangelo.

Mr Bibby’s family and friends were unable to spend time with him and when he was in hospital he begged to see his family, Mr Starmer told the Commons.

He said they followed the rules and only one member of his family was allowed to see him.

Mr Bibby’s mother, Penny Bibby (pictured with Ollie), said: “I’m livid. We did everything we were told to do and the man who made the rules didn’t. How can that be right?”

In his response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to Mr Hancock’s resignation as a “Westminster bubble” issue.

He said: “We all share the grief and the pain of Ollie and his family.”

Mrs Bibby said she felt “dismissed” by Mr Johnson’s response.

The hospital said in a letter to the family: “Many of our patients are extremely vulnerable and we have to balance the need to keep them safe from a new and serious disease against the need to show compassion for individual circumstances.

“I’m sorry if we did not get this balance right for you and Ollie.”

A spokesperson said in a subsequent statement that the hospital would be “reviewing how we implement national visiting guidance during the pandemic”.

Mrs Bibby told the BBC: “This is the outcome we wanted.

“We just don’t want any other families to go through this.

“We feel like Ollie would be proud of us for taking a stand on this.”

A UCLH spokesperson said: “We are really sensitive to the fact that having visiting restrictions in our hospitals has been one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic for patients and their families, as well as our staff.

“We have always followed national guidelines in this area which are in place to protect all patients from Covid-19.

“At UCLH, we treat many patients who are extremely vulnerable, such as those with complex cancers and other illnesses which suppress the immune system, and we must do all we can to keep them safe.

“We know safety needs to be balanced with compassion for patients’ individual circumstances so our staff do have some scope for discretion around visiting.

“This has been exercised in many cases, including for Oliver Bibby’s family for whom additional visiting arrangements were put in place.

“It has been a challenge to strike this balance during the pandemic but we believe our staff have always tried their best in very difficult circumstances and we are always looking at how we can improve further.

“We are reviewing how we implement national visiting guidance during the pandemic and listening to what our patients and their families tell us about the impact it has on their care.

“We are in contact with Oliver’s family to learn from their experiences and our deepest sympathies go to his parents, brothers and wider family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Penny Bibby / Twitter.