Questions still remain over the extent a head injury suffered by Ipswich woman Joy Saunders, 76, had on her death following her inquest

Joy Saunders with husband David

Joy Saunders with husband David - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a “loving wife, mother and grandmother” as an inquest failed to establish how much a fall she suffered while in a community hospital contributed to her death.

Joy Saunders, 76, was admitted to Bluebird Lodge in Ipswich in November 2012 for rehabilitation following a stroke in Spain.

Her inquest, held on Tuesday at IP City Centre, heard Mrs Saunders suffered a fall on her first night in the community hospital, part of Serco-run Suffolk Community Healthcare.

Despite severe bruising, she was not taken for a CT scan for three days, after showing outward signs that she may have sustained serious damage.

The inquest heard Mrs Saunders, who also suffered Alzheimer’s, was not taken to hospital immediately because she did not show any signs she was unstable. The scan revealed she had suffered a haemorrhage to part of her frontal lobe.

Mrs Saunders’ husband David asked staff at Bluebird Lodge that night to put bed rails up, which they did, but it’s thought she may have got through a gap at the foot of the bed.

After time at Ipswich Hospital, Mrs Saunders was discharged and returned to her home in Tuddenham Road, Ipswich, where she was cared for. She later suffered seizures and eventually had difficulty swallowing. She died on December 16, 2013. The cause was given as bronchopneumonia.

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During Mrs Saunders’ inquest, different opinions were heard as to how much of an impact, if any, the head injury had on her death.

It was suggested she would have been on a decline because of the stroke and other conditions, but it was debated whether this decline was exacerbated by the head injury. It was also established the injury itself would not have been treatable.

Recording a narrative verdict at the end of the inquest, coroner Yvonne Blake confirmed: “It has not been possible to establish from the evidence to what degree the head injury contributed to her death.”

After the inquest, Mr Saunders said: “We have always maintained concerns about the nature and extent of care Joy received.

“To some extent, today has merely served to reinforce those concerns. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that this inquest and our interactions with Serco will in some way help to prevent other similar deaths. Joy was a loving wife, mother and grandmother. We continue to miss her dearly with every day that passes by.”

Mr Saunders was represented at the inquest by Ashton KCJ. Prior to it, the firm confirmed a “five-figure damages claim” had been reached with Serco over the incident.

Ben Ward, of Ashton KCJ, said: “I hope, with the outcome that has been achieved and by drawing Joy’s tragic case to the attention of the public, that Mr Saunders can feel satisfied he has done everything he can do to prevent the same scenario occurring to another vulnerable patient.”

Abigail Tierney, chief executive of Suffolk Community Healthcare added: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to Mr Saunders and his family. We always put the safety of patients first and high quality care remains our priority.

“Since taking over the delivery of services in Suffolk, we have improved staffing levels, improved training and we have also invested in the policies, procedures and new equipment.”