Husband sues hospital over 'medical neglect' death of wife

A coroner's court has ruled that the death of Karen 'Jane' Winn was caused by 'neglect', after life

The husband of Karen 'Jane' Winn is bringing legal action against West Suffolk Hospital - Credit: courtesy of Tees Law

A bereaved husband is pursuing legal action following the death of his wife after a hospital failed to administer life-saving medication. 

Karen Jane Winn, who was known as Jane to friends and family, was admitted to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on April 12, 2019, on advice from her GP following treatment for a urinary tract infection.

At hospital, the 61-year-old mother was diagnosed with haemolytic anaemia, a serious blood disorder, and it was identified she was at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Following the diagnosis, Mrs Winn, from Northwold, near Thetford, should have been given a blood transfusion, ‘prednisolone’ steroids, folic acid and anticoagulant medication. 

However, this did not occur until two days later on April 14. 

On April 12, a decision was also made that Mrs Winn should be placed on medication to reduce the risk of developing a DVT, once results from a repeat set of blood tests had been obtained. 

Those blood test results became available later on April 12, but at no time between then and the morning of April 15 was the medication, that could have saved her life, administered.

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Additionally, an automated VTE (venous thromboembolism) risk assessment warning system, embedded into the electronic patient case record, was manually overridden 58 times during Mrs Winn's admission. 

Mrs Winn was taken to the intensive care unit on the morning of April 15, but suffered a cardiac arrest and died shortly afterwards. 

Her husband, Brian Winn, said: “It was obvious that my wife should have been admitted to ICU much earlier as more frequent monitoring would no doubt have presented a different outcome.

“The failure to provide a basic level of care, took away my sons’ mother, and my best friend of almost 50 years together.

"Watching a strong woman trying to fight her sudden illness but with no real competence from the people you should be able to trust and have confidence in to provide care.”

Interim chief executive of the West Suffolk Hospital trust, Craig Black 

- Credit: WSFT

An inquest was held in October 2020 and the coroner concluded that Mrs Winn's death resulted from the progression of a naturally occurring illness, contributed to by the non-administration of medication to prevent blood clots despite being earlier identified as essential for her treatment.

Mr Winn added: “The guilt has remained with both myself and my son that we should have stayed with her and rung more alarm bells that night.

"To not be with my wife at her most frightening time still haunts me every day. I feel as I failed her, and I let this hospital inflict this preventable occurrence.”

Solicitor Craig Knightley, of Tees Law, who are acting for the bereaved family, said: “A venous thromboembolism risk assessment is mandatory for all patients admitted to hospital and should be completed within hours of admission.

"It was wholly unacceptable for the assessment alert to have been overridden 58 times over those four days.

"The coroner’s finding of neglect acknowledges the total failure to give Jane basic medical treatment that would ultimately have increased her chances of survival.”

Craig Black, interim chief executive at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We offer our sincerest apologies and our deepest sympathies to Mrs Winn’s family throughout this incredibly difficult time.

"We are committed to providing high-quality care to our patients and fully accept that on this occasion we fell short of the standards our patients and families rightly expect and that we strive for.

“Following the tragic death of Mrs Winn and as part of our serious incident investigation and the inquest, we have changed and strengthened our procedures and safeguards and implemented the coroner’s findings in detail to ensure all lessons have been learned and to prevent this from happening again.”