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Family fury over death of mum, 95, at King's Lynn hospital

The family of a West Norfolk woman who died while waiting for a mental health assessment have claimed she was let down by an underfunded and understaffed system.

Dulcie Phillips, who was 95, died in Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) on Monday after her health deteriorated rapidly while she waited to be tested for suspected dementia.

Mental health bosses and officials of the care home where she was placed before going into hospital have offered to meet her family to discuss their concerns about her case.

Dulcie Phillips with four younger generations of her family (3166149)
Dulcie Phillips with four younger generations of her family (3166149)

But Mrs Phillips’ son, David, said they feel a deep anger about how she was treated and believe she would have gone on to celebrate her 100th birthday had she been given the treatment she needed.

He said: “Mum was physically healthy when she went into the care of the NHS hoping for a solution to her mental health issues.

“She walked into that home unaided, but less than a month later left the QEH in a coffin. And she never did get the assessment she was promised.

In recent months, Mrs Phillips had been suffering with paranoia, which can be a sign of dementia.

In June, she was referred to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) for assessment at the Hellesdon Hospital, near Norwich.

But, with no beds available, she was placed in the Docking House care home, where her family says she was violently assaulted by another resident and refused to eat or drink after being told the food was poisoned.

David described the home, which was said to require improvement in a Care Quality Commission inspection earlier this year, as a “hellhole” and was very unhappy with the level of concern show by staff to the assault.

Dulcie Phillips in her younger years (3166283)
Dulcie Phillips in her younger years (3166283)

After two weeks, she became so weak that she had to be taken into the QEH in Lynn, where her condition deteriorated rapidly over the weekend before her death.

David said: “At a time when the NHS is celebrating its 70th birthday, cutting cakes and blowing out candles, perhaps it should look carefully at the way mental health and the elderly are treated in Norfolk.

“It is clear from Mum’s experience that it is woefully underfunded and that there aren’t enough staff to go round.

“I am not knocking the very hard-working and caring doctors and nurses, who are faced with insurmountable hurdles on a daily basis. I am talking about the system that cynically denies funding to the health of the elderly.”

A NSFT spokesman said yesterday: “We are very sorry to hear about the death of Mrs Phillips and our sincere condolences go to all her family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Clearly, we can never talk publicly about individual service users but if her family would like to discuss the care and treatment we provided, we would be keen to meet them face-to-face to consider and allay any


Armscare, the owners of Docking House, said they provided a dedicated service, specialising in dementia care, and take “absolute pride” in their work.

They added: “Staffing levels within our homes are calculated using a standard formula that is based on the dependency needs of our residents.

“In line with company procedure, the incident in question was reported to the Norfolk Safeguarding Team for subsequent investigation and CQC (Care Quality Commission).

“We are more than happy to discuss this matter further with her next of kin but as such they have not contacted us.”

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