Elderly patient dies after being given cleaning fluid to drink
AN ELDERLY patient has died after hospital staff mistakenly gave her a glass of cleaning fluid to drink believing it was orange juice, it is alleged.
Police are investigating the incident, which is thought to have been a tragic accident, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The 85-year-old woman is understood to have been taken ill and died after drinking the orange coloured fluid, which had been decanted into a water jug.
Detectives interviewed staff, including nurses and cleaners. The matter is also being investigated by officials from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the NHS watchdog.
It is not yet known how the incident happened, but one theory is that toxic cleaning fluid was poured into an opaque drinking jug and left on the patient’s bedside table by accident.
A pathologist has carried out a postmortem examination on the pensioner, but the results, including toxicology tests, are not yet known.
Gary Palmer, GMB union regional organiser, said staff at the Brighton hospital were under a great deal of pressure due to staffing levels.
He said: “What I understand is that cleaning fluid was decanted into a water jug, for what reason I don’t know. The jug was not clear and when the staff member looked inside and saw orange liquid they thought it was orange juice. Obviously the full facts will come out with the investigation.”
He added: “We are of the view that this is not the individual’s mistake but rather a failing of the trust; they are not giving adequate training to staff who are under a lot of pressure and are often on different wards to plug gaps.”
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “The death has been referred to the coroner and, at this stage, remains unexplained.” Amanda Stanford, of the CQC, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends at this distressing time.”