A HEALTH campaigner whose elderly father "went from being a happy go lucky man to a vegetable" while in hospital is demanding an external inquiry into the health trust that treated him.

Helen Ellis, of Welling Way, Welling, runs the Patient Action Group (PAG), campaigning on behalf of people and staff at the South London Healthcare Trust whose financial collapse has led to the threatened downgrade of Lewisham Hospital services.

Her 93-year-old father Emrys Robe was admitted to Farnborough's Princess Royal Hospital in February after a fall at his Eltham home, but died there three weeks later.

She said: "From going in he should have been discharged five hours later.

"Instead, he started on a conveyor belt towards the death ward."

After a blood test, doctors said he had an infection and kept him in overnight.

And Ms Ellis claims that, during her dad's stay, he was confined to a bed, received no physiotherapy and was left with a blocked catheter three times leading to septicaemia.

Ms Ellis said: "Three weeks he was in hospital as they continued to make mistake after mistake.

"A dignified and proud ex-Navy gentleman went from being a happy go lucky man to basically a vegetable.

"He fought for this country to end up treated like an experiment animal.

"He fought and struggled to breath for over three days. They have taken away all my wonderful memories.

"All I can remember is his cries for his mum as he struggled and struggled."

She claims she was told her her father had been put on the Liverpool Care Pathway, a controversial programme allowing people with terminal illnesses to die by making decisions over food and fluids. 

And, on one occasion, the 54-year-old said she came in to find the word "stop" written across the board detailing her father's medication and treatment.

While there, Ms Ellis says other patients were treated "appallingly", with one elderly man left sitting in the same chair for nine hours, and others left with bulging catheters or face down in a plate of food.

Following her father's death Ms Ellis met outgoing trust administrator Matthew Kershaw to discuss it, during which he promised a review into 42 different issues she raised.

But Ms Ellis, who says hospital staff are too scared to speak out about their concerns, claims he also agreed to an external review of the whole trust, something the trust denies.

She said: "They need to have an external review. I don't want to see people going through what we did.

"I haven't been able to sleep since. Everytime I think of those old people who hadn't been seen and all they wanted was a drink."

To contact the group, email patientactiongroup@yahoo.com or sign the petition calling for an external inquiry at change.org

"Below the standards we expect"

A spokesman for the trust said: "Following a meeting with Mrs Ellis and the previous Trust Special Administrator, the complaint is being fully reviewed and we have agreed to an independent review of her father's case in conjunction with the trust's own internal review.

"We would like to say at the outset that there were aspects of care that were clearly below the standards that we expect and for that reason we have apologised in advance of the completion of the enquiries for the non removal of a catheter.

"Finally, we are always striving to deliver the best patient care and the record of the trust in the past few years has demonstrated real improvements.

"However, we are also aware that we don't always get it right and are continuing to work with staff and patient representatives to make sure that lessons from cases where we don't get it right are learned and to generally have a culture across our services where all aspects of care are considered and improved upon"

Since publishing this story it has come to our attention that, while Ms Ellis considers Mr Robe to be like a father to her in every way, she is in fact not related by blood.