Questions Raised On Elderly Care

Questions have been raised after claims that a hospital consultant told an inquest patients were dying “all the time” of dehydration. The inquest has been looking into the death of Olive Nockels, 91, who died after being admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after a fall in 2003.

The barrister for Mrs Nockels’ family, Christopher McNicholas, told BBC Look East that consultant Dr David Maisey said patients died of dehydration about two to three times a week.

The hospital denies this was said and an inquest is yet to decide how Mrs Nockels died.

Mr McNicholas told the BBC he cross-examined Dr Maisey when the inquest opened in July this year.

He said: “One of the questions that I asked of Dr Maisey was: ‘Doctor, how often do you see patients die of dehydration in your hospital?’ to which he replied, ‘I see it happen all the time’.

“I immediately followed up that question with well, doctor, how often does that happen? And his reply was about two to three times a week.”

This is disputed by Dr Iain Brooksby, the medical director at the hospital, who said: “We are quite clear that Dr Maisey said it was not unheard of for elderly patients to be suffering from dehydration and for that to be a contributing factor in a very small number of deaths. i.e. once a month.”

Before her death Mrs Nockels’ family launched a legal action because they were concerned the hospital was not doing all they could to prevent the retired school matron from dying.

Dr Gillian Craig, a consultant geriatrician and expert on care for the elderly, told the BBC: “You won’t find dehydration on any death certificate.

“But if two or three patients a week are dying in the experience of one consultant it suggests, I think, there should be a very careful enquiry into the reasons why, if need be a police inquiry.”

Dr Brooksby said: “The late Olive Nockels was provided with a good and appropriate level of care by our dedicated staff and every action that was taken was based solely on the best interests of Mrs Nockels.

“This is a standard we apply for all our patients and it is one of the reasons why the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has the lowest mortality rate for elderly patients of any hospital in this region.

He also described Dr Maisey as “an experienced, caring and dedicated doctor who has earned our respect and confidence”.

The inquest into the death is due to reopen early next year.