Review launched following move of dying elderly woman at Harrogate hospital

Irene Simister.
Irene Simister.

Harrogate District Foundation Trust has announced that it will be launching a review into the decision to move an elderly cancer patient, less than an hour before she died.

The sons of Irene Simister, an 83-year-old cancer patient, have described the decision to move their mother moments before she died on Friday October 14, as 'distressing and traumatic'.

But following a meeting this morning with the trust's Chief Executive, Dr Ros Tolcher and Medical Director, Dr David Scullion, HDFT will be reviewing what Mrs Simister's son, David described as an "appalling decision".

Mr Simister said: "Myself my brother and my sister met with them, obviously they proffered their apologies.

"The next stage is that they are instigating an investigation, led by a non executive director, into the circumstances surrounding the decision to move my mother and her subsequent death in the other room.

"We have asked to be copied in on all minutes, the full outcome, and for this non executive director to come speak to us - that is very important because we want him to hear it from our side of things. We will reserve judgement until we hear the findings of this report."

Mr Simister, a North Yorkshire County Councillor who sits on the council's Scrutiny of Health committee said he will be contacting the chair of the committee, Councillor Jim Clark.

Mr Simister also said that his brother, Andrew, will be speaking to the Care Quality Commission and the Harrogate and District Clinical Commissioning Group.

The Scrutiny of Health committee are currently reviewing end-of-life care across North Yorkshire and are preparing a report called 'Dying Well'.

Mr Simister said there were stark differences in end-of-life care throughout the county and he that he hopes the review in Harrogate will highlight the importance of this area of treatment.

He said: "It needs to highlight the importance of end-of-life care and the treatment afforded to these people who are at the very last points of their life and the care given to them and their families and friends.

"The only thing we can think about is the last few minutes of my mother's life.

"Had this not have happened we would have been singing the praises of Harrogate hospital because up until that point the care they had given her had been second to none."

Mrs Simister's family said that staff had claimed the decision was monetary driven, as the hospital may have been financially penalised if a bed had not been found for the woman who had an infection.

However Dr Tolcher refuted the claim saying 'financial matters' had no part to play and that the decision had been made by clinical staff.

She said: “I must emphasise that the decision to move Mrs Simister was taken by clinical staff and not by administrators as suggested by some reports. Financial matters played no part in the decision making in what was a very difficult set of circumstances.

“I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Irene Simister’s family. I am very sorry that she was moved at such a late stage.

"I have already spoken to her family and we will be examining all of the circumstances of this very regrettable situation in order to prevent similar distress for other patients and families in the future.

"I apologise sincerely to those affected by this situation and would like to reassure people that we will continue to do everything possible to provide care which is compassionate and dignified, particularly for people at the end of their lives."