24 Apr 2020

Revealed: Elderly woman dies after being ‘refused admission’ from Glasgow hospital

Data Correspondent and Presenter

A woman has died after allegedly being refused admission to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Channel 4 News can reveal.

Natalie Wolfson, 85, a resident at Westacres Care Home in East Renfrewshire, passed away the day after her GP allegedly asked for her to be admitted to hospital for hydration and pain relief after she fell and fractured her upper arm.

Westacres Care Home manager Linda Carruthers told Channel 4 News Scotland Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins she believed Natalie, who also had suspected Covid-19 symptoms, died as a consequence of being refused admission to the hospital.

Mrs Carruthers said: “People still need treatment and if we learn anything from Natalie’s death is that we don’t ever let it happen again.”

In First Minister’s Questions on April 21st, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “vital” to get the message across that “the NHS is open”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The NHS is there if people need it; they should not hold back. People should come forward for the help that the NHS is there to give them.”

Jack Ryan, Chief Executive of Newark Care, called for an investigation and said he believed the NHS was “clearly not” there for those who need it in Mrs Wolfson’s case.

Mrs Wolfson’s husband, Leslie, said he had met Natalie at just 17 years old and they had been happily married for over 65 years.

“I loved her dearly and we were still on our honeymoon,” he said. “We never argued. If she wanted something she got it. If I wanted something, I got it.”

This is the latest in a series of reports from Channel 4 News Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins on care homes and Covid-19 deaths, which previously revealed whistleblower allegations that some Coronavirus deaths were being certified by GPs under other conditions and may not be included in the official death toll.

Natalie Wolfson became a resident at Westacres Care Home two months ago. She had Alzheimer’s but her named nurse, Laura Millar, said she was “full of life”.

Earlier in April, Mrs Wolfson was being “barrier nursed,” meaning her carers were wearing full PPE and treating her as if she had suspected Coronavirus. However, according to Ms Millar her symptoms “eased”, the barrier nursing was stopped and as little as a fortnight before her death “she was out and about and just herself and enjoying life.”

Then Mrs Wolfson had a fall. She was admitted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and according to the care home, was discharged hours later with a collar and pain killers for a fracture to her upper arm.

Ms Millar alleges Natalie was discharged too hastily: “Her pain control wasn’t managed and her outlook was shattered,” she said.

Care Home Manager Linda Carruthers said Natalie deteriorated quickly after being discharged: “She became very frail because her pain levels were such that she wasn’t eating or drinking.”

Care Home nurse Laura Millar decided Natalie needed to go to hospital for pain relief and to be put on a drip. The Care Home incident log on Thursday April 16th reads:

“Call received from Dr to say that she would admit Natalie to hospital. She called the hospital and called back stated that the hospital have refused to admit Natalie for pain relief and re-hydration.”

Mrs Carruthers said: “We certainly hoped that she would be admitted. You know the GP agreed with us – she should have been admitted to hospital – she tried everything she could but the answer when she came back was they weren’t going to take her in, she wasn’t to be admitted. I understand that Covid’s in the hospitals and that Natalie had been a suspected case but she should still have been treated.”

Asked by Channel 4 News Scotland Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins what she believed the consequences were of Natalie not being admitted to hospital, Mrs Carruthers replied: “She died. And that’s wrong.”

Mrs Millar, who said she was “heartbroken” by Natalie’s death, said she tried to give her some reassurance in her final days. She said she told Natalie:

“We’re trying our best for you.”

Mrs Millar said: “Natalie is a lady that should have been entitled to the same rights as anybody. Irrespective of her age or if she had suspected coronavirus. She was a lady that deserved more than what she got.

Westacres Care Home says Mrs Wolfson’s cause of death was certified as “presumed Covid” with “humerus bone fracture” listed as a significant condition contributing to her death.

Care Home Manager Linda Carruthers told Channel 4 News Mrs Wolfson “didn’t need to die”.

“The whole aim of this was to keep that [elderly] population safe. But we still need to look after them. They still need to be admitted to hospital. They still need to have treatment,” she said.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said in a statement:

“We wish to offer our sympathies to the family and understand what a difficult time this must be for them.

“Whilst we cannot discuss individual cases we can confirm that this patient was appropriately treated for their orthopaedic condition.

“We are investigating the allegations made by the care home, however, we refute the suggestion that this patient was not admitted to hospital due to COVID-19.

“Any patient who requires to be hospitalised will be admitted to hospital.”