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Inquest of beloved QEH King's Lynn staff member is concluded

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The family of a healthcare assistant who died in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic have today raised concerns about how her condition was handled by.

Relatives of Chrissie Emerson, say members of staff at Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she worked, knew she had a high temperature before she was sent home in April 2020.

But, recording a conclusion that she had died by natural causes, Norfolk's senior coroner, Jacqueline Lake, said the hospital's measures were in line with national guidance at the time.

Chrissie Emerson, a healthcare assistant at Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, has died after contracting coronavirus (54375575)
Chrissie Emerson, a healthcare assistant at Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, has died after contracting coronavirus (54375575)

Ms Emerson, who was 64, died on April 19 2020 after contracting Covid-19.

Despite living with several underlying health conditions, she did not receive a shielding letter from the government and continued to work at the start of the pandemic.

Her family raised concerns with coronavirus procedures at the hospital, and claimed "three staff members knew of her high temperature" after she was sent home sick on April 7.

They argued there was "a window of opportunity where mum could have been tested for covid, as was the procedure in place at that time."

Witness statements by matron and Deputy General Manager for medicine Deborah Longmere, who oversaw six wards including the outpatient unit where Ms Emerson worked, detailed that two risk assessments relating to pre-existing health conditions, had been done for her during that time.

Mrs Longmere said: "I was made aware that measures had been put in place for Chrissie, as she had a number of health conditions that put her at greater risk for suffering complications of Covid-19.

"She was not to greet patients coming onto the unit, even though it was a green ward at the time and patients underwent pre-appointment screening for symptoms of Covid-19.

"On March 19 PPE regulations changed and it was obligatory for all staff members to wear appropriate PPE such as face masks and eye protection if needed, prior to that PPE was provided.

"Chrissie was offered the opportunity to work from home or switch departments but she was adamant she wanted to stay on the unit.

Chrissie Emerson's name was projected onto the side of Old Hunstanton Lighthouse.. (53273530)
Chrissie Emerson's name was projected onto the side of Old Hunstanton Lighthouse.. (53273530)

"She said her leg was playing up on April 7, and was sent home at 2pm."

A GP report on the same day confirmed Ms Emerson called her GP practice with concerns about ongoing cellulitis, her temperature was not mentioned at the consultation.

On the telephone consultation with nurse practitioner Simon Sweeney Ms Emerson said: "I'm concerned about having time off work I don't want to let my colleagues down."

Ms Emerson's family said: "She mentioned the temperature when she went home".

Ellie Masterson, who was staff nurse and line manager for Ms Emerson, provided a statement that was also read to the court.

She said: "In the morning temperature checks Ms Emerson was noted to have a high temperature and this was relayed to Mrs Longmere.

"Ms Emerson was asked to report back to the unit she had returned home safely."

Mrs Longmere said that she "wasn't aware" of any temperature checks taking place on the units at that time and said "staff must have been doing their own checks".

But Ms Emerson's family questioned why she had been sent home in the afternoon after displaying a high temperature or why she had not been tested.

Mrs Longmere reaffirmed she "wasn't aware" of any temperature records.

And an email, given in evidence today, confirmed the hospital "had no formal temperature checks in place for green wards at this time during the pandemic."

Ms Lake concluded that "there was no need to file a report to prevent further deaths and the QEH safety measures were in line with government guidance at the time."

She said: "The evidence does not reveal where Ms Emerson contracted the virus."

Ms Emerson, who lived in Terrington St Clement, was born in Preston.

She was described as a "much loved, sociable person who loved spending time with family and friends."

A new outpatient unit at the hospital was re-named the Emerson Unit in her honour.

Denise Smith, chief operating officer at the QEH previously said in a statement: ""Chrissie’s sad death impacted the whole Queen Elizabeth Hospital family, and we believe naming the unit in her memory is a fitting tribute to her. Chrissie is very much missed by us all."

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