Belfast Telegraph

Family 'trauma' as delayed probe still can't explain why mum Joan (81) died

By Cate McCurry

The family of an elderly woman who died after she fell at her home in the presence of carers say they have been "re-traumatised" following a two-year delay in an investigation into her death.

Joan Johnson (81) died within weeks of falling out of a hoist at her home in Newtownabbey in February 2015.

She was being cared for through a private domiciliary agency commissioned by the Northern Health Trust.

Private health care staff were at her home when she fell twice within 48 hours, but subsequent investigations have not established the cause of either fall.

The incidents took place as she was mid-hoist while carers were changing her.

After the second fall the family said they knew there was something "seriously wrong".

She was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital and died after two heart attacks 10 days later.

Speaking to online investigative website The Detail, Mrs Johnson's daughter, also Joan, said the family received a letter from the Northern Trust a few weeks after her death.

The letter stated that the trust was carrying out a Serious Adverse incident (SAI) investigation into the death.

The family expected to be included and contribute to the investigation as stated in the letter.

Weeks later, however, the family received a concluded report.

"The inaccuracies were astounding," Joan's daughter said.

"There was so much wrong with it and the time-line didn't match up."

The family made numerous attempts to contact the trust to highlight their concerns, however, when that failed they turned to its chief executive.

A meeting was arranged and the trust apologised, saying the family should have been involved and assuring them another investigation would be carried out with their greater involvement.

But it would be another two years before the second investigation would be signed off, a process that would usually take up to 12 weeks.

The investigation failed to establish the cause of both falls in the days leading up to her death.

This left the family with more questions than answers, as they struggled to understand how she fell.

The Johnson family said they had lost faith in the SAI process.

"I hoped we would have had closure at this stage, but the complete opposite has happened. We still have many unanswered questions," said Joan's daughter.

"We've had to re-live it; every time I think of mum all I can think of is this SAI process. I suppose you could say it has re-traumatised us as a family."

After the family continued to raise questions, the Northern Trust referred the case to the Northern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman for further investigation.

The trust told The Detail that as the ombudsman is to investigate Mrs Johnson's case it could not make any specific comment.

However, a spokesperson said: "The trust recognises the timescale of this particular SAI investigation and the ombudsman may also consider this aspect of the process."

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