'Caring' Ipswich grandmother's inquest likely to take place on 2022

Karen Starling was diagnosed with M.abscessus after undergoing a double lung transplant

Karen Starling, who died aged 54 after developing a bacterial infection - Credit: Family of Karen Starling

An inquest into the death of an Ipswich grandmother who died from a bacterial infection linked to a hospital outbreak is likely to be heard next year. 

Karen Starling was diagnosed with Mycobacterium Abscessus (M.abscessus) shortly after undergoing a double lung transplant at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge in May 2019.

She had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and developed pancreatitis following the infection. 

She died in February 2020, aged 54. 

A second pre-inquest review into Ms Starling's death was held at Cambridgeshire Coroner's Court on October 29, listed together with the death of Anne Martinez, who died in December 2020. 

Ms Starling's family voiced concerns at the hearing and sought reassurance that personal details would not be aired to the other family, but agreed that the cases could be heard together. 

At the review, assistant coroner Keith Morton said that the cases were "concurrent but separate hearings" to help the court with "managing common evidence together". 

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All parties agreed to not call a jury.

The assistant coroner invited representatives to submit availability for the period of January to September next year for an inquest to be held. 

Mr Morton said that he appreciated it could be a long wait for families but that all involved would "do whatever we can to deal with the earliest date possible".  

A serious incident report found that a total of 21 patients with lung conditions were infected with M.abscessus after the specialist heart and lung hospital opened at the hospital in May 2019. 

And a report by Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust found that the "most credible source" of the outbreak was a contaminated water supply and not due to clinical care.

In a statement before Friday's hearing, Ms Starling's family paid tribute to the kind and caring mum of six and a grandmother of 14.

Karen's family said: "Karen was the most loving, kind and caring wife, mum and nanny anyone could ever wish for. She adored her family and was never happier than when spending time with them. 

"Never did we think that when she had her operation things would turn out the way they did. The last few months of Karen's life were a real struggle for her. Despite this, she tried to face her challenges and showed great courage and bravery. 

"We can't thank enough all of the medical staff involved in Karen's care - right from her lung transplant at the Royal Papworth until her death. All of the doctors, nurses and medical staff that Karen saw were kind, caring and efficient.

"However, we have so many unanswered questions about how Karen contracted M.abscessus and whether anything could have been done to prevent her illness. 

"While time has moved on since Karen's death our family hasn't been able to. We know nothing can make up for what's happened. We just want to honour Karen's memory by establishing what happened."

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