Laura Elwell, mother of two young boys from Wolverhampton, died at the age of 31 only days after being transferred from New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, to Coventry’s University Hospital.
At the time of her death, the youngest of her two children was only 7 months old. Laura was initially admitted to hospital in May 2014 with severe abdominal pain and vomiting and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. She was discharged 2 ½ weeks later only to be re-admitted in June and again in July 2014. CT imaging showed severe pancreatic necrosis, a very treatable condition. The family alleged that there were a number of shortcomings in the care provided to Laura including a failure to ensure adequate and effective drainage of the infection, premature discharge from hospital, failing to properly manage her nutritional intake during hospital admissions and failing to ensure that she was transferred for the specialist care she needed in a timely manner.
By the time Laura was transferred to University Hospital of Coventry in August 2014, she was in such a poor condition that she could not undergo the surgery she required. It was there that the family were made aware, for the first time, that Laura had developed sepsis, and that she was unlikely to survive.
The family attended a meeting at New Cross Hospital in the months following Laura’s death which, for them, resulted in more questions than answers. They initially pursued their complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsman, whose report raised a number of concerns about the treatment and management of Laura during her hospital admissions between May and August 2014. It was then, having exhausted all other means of investigation available to them, that Laura’s father, David Elwell and her fiancé Stephen Smalley, sought to bring a claim against The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, the legal body with responsibility for New Cross Hospital. The Trust has denied liability for causing Laura’s death but settled the case.
Kishma Bolaji, Principal Associate and Medical Negligence specialist based in our Birmingham office, assisted Laura’s family in their 6-year long search for answers as to what went wrong in the care and treatment she received at New Cross Hospital in 2014.
“The loss of a loved one, especially someone so young, is extremely painful. Where that loss is thought to have been the result of failures and poor management in hospital as is alleged in this case, coping with that loss and being able to move forward is all the more difficult. Openness and honesty on the part of the Trust at the earliest opportunity is vital. Although resolution of the litigation has now been reached, that is no substitute for the comfort and sense of justice that a warranted admission and an apology gives to a grieving family, something this family has been denied.”
Laura’s story was aired on BBC Midlands Today television news programme on 25 September 2020.
Pictured above: Laura Elwell.
BBC Midlands Today (25 September 2020):
Express and Star:
Family’s six-year fight for apology after mother's death (30 September 2020)