A GP service has apologised to a grieving son after he waited 14 hours for a doctor to go to her nursing home and confirm she was dead.
When Evelyn Beeney, 91, died at The Heights nursing home in Downley last month, son Paul Rogerson expected her body could be collected fairly quickly by an undertaker in readiness for the funeral.
But before this could happen a GP had to attend the home to confirm the death, and as the hours dragged on Mr Rogerson became embroiled in a row with doctors.
The 67-year-old had been called at about midnight on October 10 and told his mum had passed away, but said when he arrived at the Langley Close home the staff told him the GP out-of-hours service was unable to attend.
Hanover House & Lynton House doctors’ surgeries in High Wycombe would apparently pick up the job the next day, so Mr Rogerson returned home.
But when the Speen resident spoke to the undertakers at 11am the next day, he discovered they had not been able to collect the body as a doctor had still not attended The Heights.
Mr Rogerson, who is a Bucks county councillor, said he phoned the surgeries and was told it was unlikely that someone could get there until the following day, when a doctor was making a routine visit to the home.
However, he told the Bucks Free Press he reacted furiously to this and a doctor was eventually sent to the home at 4pm that day, October 11.
Mr Rogerson said a GP should have been sent out much earlier, adding: “You would make time...you would do something.
“People at that time don’t want to be caught up in an argument with a doctors’ surgery. Grieving families shouldn’t be put through that.”
Bucks Urgent Care, which runs the county’s GP out-of-hours service, said it was reviewing its procedures after there appeared to be a “misunderstanding” resulting from their telephone conversations with the nursing home.
Service manager Joanne Penny said: “We would firstly like to apologise to Mr Rogerson for any further distress that the delay in confirming the death of his mother may have caused...
“On this occasion, there appears to have been a misunderstanding resulting from the telephone conversations between the nursing home and the out-of-hours GP service.
“At no time during those conversations did we say we would not visit or did not have the resource to visit. Our understanding was the nursing home was going to contact the patient’s GP in the morning to certify the death.
“Also following our preliminary investigation, we have identified other issues which may also have led to additional confusion.
“This misunderstanding and confusion are clearly not desirable or acceptable and we are reviewing our procedures to prevent similar issues happening again.”
The Fremantle Trust, which runs The Heights nursing home, said: “While we recognise this was a distressing time for Mr Rogerson and his family, our staff did all they could to enable certification, which was completed within 24 hours.”
This kind of incident is “extremely rare” at the home, a spokesman added.
A spokesman for The Practice plc, which runs Hanover House & Lynton House surgeries in High Wycombe, said it is contracted by the NHS to hold twice-weekly clinics at The Heights, but its GPs are also available for one hour on other days to deal with emergencies.
She added: “Normal protocol to confirm a death would be on the same working day. Any GP can confirm a death including out-of-hours GPs.
“The registered surgery of the deceased would normally issue a death certificate within one further working day once the death has been confirmed.
“Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases of any patients we would like to extend our condolences to Mrs Beeney’s family at this time.”