Sheffield hospital offers £50,000 settlement to grieving sisters over mother's death

Ruth Smith and her sister Janet Neville with pictures of their mum Jean Oates.
Ruth Smith and her sister Janet Neville with pictures of their mum Jean Oates.
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Jean Oates was admitted to hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Jean Oates was admitted to hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Jean Oates.

Jean Oates.

By 10pm the following day she was dead.

When the 78-year-old entered Barnsley District General Hospital she was displaying symptoms of having had a heart attack and had been vomiting.

Nevertheless, doctors weren’t able to get her transferred to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield as the specialist cardiac unit there said she did not meet their criteria.

As a result, she suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, could not be resuscitated and died 40 minutes later.

Now, more than five years later, Jean’s daughters Janet and Ruth have been awarded £50,000 in an out-of-court settlement with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

“But it was never about the money,” said Janet.

She now wants people to understand how important it is to challenge health care decisions they know aren’t right.

“Both my sister and I said it should never happen again,” she said. “We think we owe it to people in Sheffield to let them know what happened. In a lot of cases people are too subservient and just do as they are told.”

After Jean was rushed to hospital from her Brierley home on Saturday, January 5, 2013, Barnsley hospital tried to get her transferred to Northern General on their ‘red phone’ system which allows seriously ill patients to get seen by specialist doctors in Sheffield.

After they declined to take her, however, Jean remained in the care of the on-call consultant at Barnsley – a gastroenterologist – for the entire weekend.

Tragically, by the time she was due to see a consultant cardiologist on Monday morning, she had died.

Janet believes if her mum had been moved to the cardiovascular unit in Sheffield and offered a stent procedure, she would still be alive.

Jean’s husband David was offered a stent after his second heart attack, prolonging his life by a further three years.

“I wanted this case to go to court – I wanted them naming and shaming,” said Janet.

“But because it was an out-of-court settlement I never even got an apology.”

The money Janet and Ruth were awarded was intended to cover the costs of them caring for their dad David, who suffered from dementia.

When Jean died, he also lost his primary carer, leaving Janet and Ruth to pick up the pieces.

Heartbreakingly, David died last year and did not live to see the outcome of the case.

"My conscience allowed me to accept the money because it was for my dad’s care but now my dad is gone,” said Janet.

Janet has already given most of the money away to her family, and is also intending to make a large donation to the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of her dad.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust settled the case but still refused to accept liability for Jean’s death.

Dr David Throssell, the trust’s medical director, said: “Our deepest condolences go to Mrs Oates’ family.

“The clinical issues surrounding this case were not straightforward which is why there has been an out-of-court settlement but without admission of liability.”