Fury of cancer dad’s family as death complaints to Royal Free go unheard for year-and-a-half
10:21 07 February 2014
The family of a young father who died suffering multi-organ failure less than two weeks after being told he was well enough to leave hospital, claim their complaints have “fallen on deaf ears”.
Lee Grimstone was also sent to a Premier Inn to recuperate from chemotherapy for T cell lymphoma after being told it was “safer” than being in a hospital bed.
In August 2012 he died at 33, a week before the first birthday of his son Dylan.
Five months earlier he had been diagnosed with cancer and battled a number of ailments during treatment before contracting pneumonia.
Less than two weeks before his death, doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead discharged him, claiming he was well enough to go back to his home in Surrey – although he was still vomiting and suffering hallucinations.
Then the father-of-two collapsed and was admitted to the Royal Free’s A&E department, where staff found he was suffering kidney failure, liver failure, septic shock and pneumonia. He died in the hospital just nine days later.
Well over a year after his death, Mr Grimstone’s family has been unable to get to the bottom of how he was allowed to leave the hospital despite being so seriously ill.
They claim that it took the Royal Free five months to respond to a letter of complaint, while a number of face-to-face meetings have been cancelled.
Despite receiving “excellent” care at another London hospital, family members said that Mr Grimstone had to “fight from the very start” to be given proper treatment at the Royal Free.
His sister, Jayne Grimstone, said: “We first started worrying after Lee developed lesions all over his body and asked the hospital for a diagnosis.
“After more than a year suffering in agony, and with the hospital shrugging their shoulders saying they didn’t know what was wrong, he effectively begged them to admit him.
“It was only then, and after he had chased them for an answer, that they found out he had cancer.”
While being treated with chemotherapy, Mr Grimstone was put up in the Premier Inn across the road.
Family members said that an underlying illness he suffered from birth, on top of his cancer treatment, meant he was left to walk the streets of Hampstead with “effectively no immune system”.
Doctors later told them that the threat from hospital bugs, like the superbug MRSA, meant a room in the Premier Inn may have been safer than a ward.
An internal investigation later revealed that he had died riddled with “severe infections”.
Lee’s widow and mother of Dylan, Lucy Grimstone, who lives in Surrey, said that the family’s battle to get answers from the hospital had been “a nightmare”.
They claimed that at one point they were denied access to his medical records. “Lee suffered his entire life with a rare disorder but it wasn’t this that killed him,” she said. We just feel so let down and we want to make sure care that the Royal Free is as safe as they claim it to be.
“He’s left behind a young family and we don’t want anything like this to happen to anyone else.”
In a statement, the hospital said that it was “sorry” for the delays in responding to the complaints.
The hospital said that staff were in regular contact with the Premier Inn to ensure conditions were suitable for patients and the hospital had not received any negative feedback from Mr Grimstone during his stay.
The spokesman said: “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Mr Grimstone’s family for their loss and we are extremely sorry to hear that they are unhappy with the treatment he received at the Royal Free.
“A thorough investigation took place following a complaint from Mr Grimstone’s family and due to the complexity of the case and the range of specialities involved, there was a delay in sending a response.
“The delay was acknowledged in the response letter and apologised for, and we would once again like to apologise for that delay.
“We understand that after the investigation was complete, Mr Grimstone’s family wished to organise a meeting to discuss the findings further.
‘‘We are sorry that it has taken so long to schedule a meeting and the complaints team hopes to be able to arrange a meeting which will suit all parties as soon as possible.”