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Grandmother from Ivybridge in Devon told she had constipation dies from sepsis

Source: , Posted On:   01 April 2021

A grandmother who was misdiagnosed with constipation died of septic shock after multiple attempts to access hospital care.

Norma Saunders, from Ivybridge in Devon, was told she had constipation by a GP and turned away by doctors at Derriford Hospital.

But she had developed peritonitis - an inflammation of the tissue which lines the inner wall of the abdomen - from a perforated bowel. She died 10 days after contracting sepsis.

The hospital has since admitted Norma's care fell below expected standards and the Medical Defence Union - representing the doctor which saw her in the days leading up to her hospital admission - has paid her family an undisclosed sum.

Now Norma's loved-ones are urging doctors to listen to their patients' families, as they say they knew something was seriously wrong.

Norma Lamb pictured with her daughter, Lorraine

Norma Saunders pictured with her daughter, Lorraine LambCredit: ITV News West Country

Norma's daughter, Lorraine Lamb, said: "She should have been sent to hospital for a referral and I think things would have been picked up.

"She would at least have been given some antibiotics, which would have helped with the infection..."

Lorraine said the mum-of-five and grandmother-of-twelve was not one to complain, so her family knew she was seriously ill.

She said: "She was rocking backwards and forwards in pain. She was grunting, the pain was so bad. She was sweating profusely, her hair was wet with the sweat."

She looked pale, she just looked horrendous and that time I just thought to myself, there's something bad going on here.

Lorraine Lamb

Mrs Saunders was taken to Derriford Hospital but after an examination and an X-ray, she was sent home.

It was later found the X-ray had shown up an abnormality - but the hospital didn't act on it.

Within hours of her discharge, Norma Saunders collapsed again but her family felt they had to fight for her to be seen. 

Lorraine Lamb said: "We followed her down to the theatre and I kissed mum and I just said behave yourself in surgery mum, I love you and we'll see you when you come out. But we never got to see her again."

Norma Saunders with her husband and daughter

Norma Saunders with her husband and daughterCredit: ITV News West Country

Mrs Saunders developed peritonitis from her perforated bowel also contracted sepsis and died 10 days later.

After an investigation by medical negligence lawyers, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has admitted a breach of duty and that Norma's care fell below expected standards.

It said: "As an acute hospital trust we always strive to put patients first but in this case we recognise that there were areas for improvement in Mrs Saunders' care."

Norma Saunders with her family

Norma Saunders with her familyCredit: ITV News West Country

A doctor who visited Mrs Saunders in the days before she was admitted to hospital denied liability but the Medical Defence Union, which represents them, has paid Mrs Saunders' family an undisclosed sum.

James Pink, the family's solicitor, said: "This is a family that has been ripped apart by the loss of Norma. Her husband Terrence has since been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The effect on him has been catastrophic."