Ipswich Hospital under scrutiny over care of young mother Jessica Rudland

Jessica Rudland

Jessica Rudland - Credit: Archant

The family of a young mother living with a brain injury is seeking to sue Ipswich Hospital over the way it handled an investigation into her care.

Jessica Rudland, 24, was rushed to the hospital’s accident and emergency department in August 2015 complaining of shortness of breath - just 15 days after giving birth to her son Lewin, her family has said.

In a statement released by Ashtons Legal, on behalf of Miss Rudland’s family, it states that Jessica, from Ipswich, was diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm and was initially prescribed beta blockers. But when her blood pressure dropped she was given cardioversion – a form of electrical shock treatment – used to restore the heart back to a normal beat. She later suffered a cardiac arrest, the statement said.

It was following the cardiac arrest that her family claim Jessica was “abandoned” for a period of time. Jessica subsequently spent 13 days in a coma.

But it was Ipswich Hospital’s own investigation into the incident, which it is required to conduct with a case of this severity, that has caused the family concern.

Jessica’s father Chris Rudland has claimed the hospital did not follow local and national guidelines when carrying out its inquiry.

“The framework encourages family input in serious investigations,” Mr Rudland said. “In our daughter’s case the family was excluded from this process, even though her mother Sue was present throughout the treatment and could add valuable insight into the incident.”

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Nick Hulme, chief executive of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, said the hospital “fully recognised” that its investigation was “too narrow” and has agreed to commission an independent clinical review of Jessica’s case, working alongside her family.

“We have met with the family many times and it has always been our intention to be open in our well recognised spirit of transparency,” he added. “A few weeks ago we agreed with the family to commission a completely independent clinical review and Jessica’s family will be fully involved in defining the terms of reference or scope of this review.”

Over a year later and Jessica’s heart has now stabilised but she suffers slowness of both movement and speech, say her family, symptoms of what is understood to be a brain injury.

The family have launched an online fundraising campaign for analysis and possible treatment in a bid to “Bring Back Jessica Rae Rudland” as she cannot work, drive or fully care for her young son.

The family’s lawyer, Carole Watts, a medical negligence specialist from Ashtons Legal, said: “The question of Jessica’s care immediately after the cardioversion has to be investigated, to establish whether the reported delays may have caused her brain injury. But the hospital’s failure to investigate the issue properly is part of a disturbing pattern of hospitals not following guidelines in these cases, and not treating the investigation with the seriousness it deserves.

“Too often it seems that it’s seen as a form-filling exercise, a means of explaining away poor procedures instead of seeing it as part of patient safety and a way of saving lives in future.”

The Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was asked to look into the way Ipswich Hospital conducted its investigation and has accepted that guidelines were broken.

A spokesman said: “The CCG has worked with Jessica’s family and Ipswich Hospital over the last few months. We will continue to liaise with both parties and support the family during this time.”

The case is now being examined by the General Medical Council, the Nursing Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission, which is the national NHS watchdog.

Ms Watts said it was likely that civil action would be pursued against the hospital for its “negligence” in causing Jessica’s injuries.