MADHUMITA Mandal, aged 30, died in agony from multiple organ failure after an unqualified receptionist at the Virgin Care centre at Croydon University Hospital thought the woman was “not that sick”. Mrs Mandal was in fact suffering from a ruptured ovarian cyst and died four days later.
The tragedy has exposed the issue of private healthcare providers in the NHS using non-clinical staff to triage patients – and their refusal to learn from such tragedy when it risks eating into profit margins.
Mandal was rushed to the urgent care centre at Croydon University Hospital on 7th September 2013. The centre is run by private contractor Virgin Care, a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s company.
The IT professional was suffering severe abdominal pain and vomiting – but the health centre receptionist, an administrator with no medical training, judged that Mrs Mandal “wasn’t that sick”.
The receptionist triaged Mrs Mandal as non-urgent, and placed her in the queue to see an in-house nurse rather than a doctor. For the following four hours Mrs Mandal’s husband pleaded with staff to escalate the matter while his wife thrashed about on the floor in agony, vomiting.
It was not until eight hours after they first arrived at the centre that Mrs Mandal was taken into surgery to deal with the ruptured ovarian cyst that was causing her such pain and sickness. She died of multiple organ failure and sepsis four days later
According to the Croydon Guardian Mrs Mandal’s grieving husband, Prabhanjan Behera, said he believed his wife’s illness “was not taken seriously enough”. He added: “To have non-medical staff making these potentially life-or-death decisions seems to be unacceptable to me and I would hope that medically qualified people will be making decisions in future.”
Dr Kathryn Channing, lead consultant at the hospital’s A&E, told the [Guardian]: “We as a department have never been happy with that. I think I can speak for both my colleagues and myself when I say that clinical staff conducting the streaming would be more appropriate.”
The death also came just two months after the Care Quality Commission (CQC – the NHS watchdog) had raised concerns over the process in its assessment of the hospital.
The CQC said: “We were concerned that there was a risk of a patient with a serious illness or injury being wrongly streamed and their condition deteriorating.”