'Tragic' case of end of life care in Harrogate reveals county-wide problem

Councillor Jim Clark
Councillor Jim Clark

Health officials have explained how a ‘tragic and appalling’ case of end of life care in Harrogate has highlighted a wider problem across North Yorkshire.

It’s just two weeks since the sons of Irene Simister called for an urgent review at Harrogate hospital, following the decision to move their 83-year-old mother, less than an hour before she died.

But Chairman of the Scrutiny of Health committee for North Yorkshire, Jim Clark, said the case of Irene Simister highlighted issues with end of life care across the county.

He said: “There is a lot of good practice that goes on but I’m certain there are other cases similar to Mrs Simister and often when people are at such a difficult time they might not register concerns because they are so upset about losing a relative.

“One of the problems we have had is that people have always been sensitive about talking about death because its something that people don’t like to think about, but its important.”

One of the biggest issues around end of life care is the patient’s preferred place of death, with most people wanting to die at home with their family.

Mrs Simister’s son, David, sits on the Scrutiny of Health committee which is currently reviewing end of life care by interacting with hospices, care homes and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) throughout North Yorkshire.

Councillor Clark said: “It is very tragic, the appalling way his mother was treated brings it all home.

“The CCGs say they put the patient first but we need to hold them to account and ensure that they do that. Certainly in Mrs Simister’s case we were not putting the patient first and we have got to get them back to that.”

The committee is in the process of producing a report called ‘Dying Well’ with guidelines and proposals around this kind of care.

Chief Executive of Harrogate and District Foundation Trust, Dr Ros Tolcher, said: “We are supportive of the County Council’s ‘Dying Well’ priority. It has a very important focus on enabling more people approaching the end of life to be cared for and to die in their place of choosing and enabling the delivery of the best possible standard of care in all end of life

settings.

“We are committed to continuously improving the quality of care we provide. Receiving feedback from our patients, their families and carers is critical to achieving this.

“We welcome feedback both during and after care.”