Berrywood doctors missed Northampton mental health patient’s broken back

Claire Masters.
Claire Masters.

A jury inquest into the death of a Northampton woman whose broken back went unnoticed at Berrywood Hospital heard numerous doctors missed signs that her pain was the result of a fracture.

Claire Masters had a history of paranoid schizophrenia and after an incident where she tried to harm herself on September 5, 2014, she was admitted to the Harbour Ward of Berrywood Hospital.

But the 57-year-old died on October 16 as a result of a fractured spine and a subsequent infection.

Her sister Michele Power, speaking after the opening of he inquest on Tuesday, said she felt “let down by Northamptonshire Healthcare Trust” responsible for Miss Masters’ care.

Miss Masters had been living at the Dallingtons, a nursing home based in Harlestone Road between 2010 and 2014 without a major incident.

But when she was told the Dallingtons was to become a male-only residence, she was transferred to Lindsay House in Abington, run by the charity Rethink.

Mrs Power said the family were initially happy to see Miss Masters moved to Berrwood on September 6.

But from that date her mental condition continued to deteriorate.

She was self harming often, the inquest heard yesterday, by “throwing herself” from her hospital bed onto the floor. She was also banging her head and expressing suicidal feelings.

On September 9 she complained of severe pain and would not get up from a “prone position” the jury heard.

She told nurses she had broken her back.

At least two separate doctors examined her but could not find damage to the spine and did not order X-rays.

On one occasion Miss Masters would not allow a doctor to examine her because it was too painful for her to turn over.

One of the doctors to assess her at Berrywood, Dr Alla Pavlovic, said that staff there had discussed whether Miss Masters’ pain might have been the result of delusional behaviour.

She said psychiatric ward patients would “often have delusional ideas about their physical heath.”

Miss Masters frequently asked to be taken to Northampton General Hospital, but despite an assessment by the general hospital staff on September 12, she remained at Berrywood until September 25, when she collapsed.

It was only then doctors discovered she was paralysed from the chest down.

The inquest is set to continue into next week.


Doctor felt crisis team should have intervened on September 5

A GP who assessed Miss Masters on September 5 after she had attempted to harm herself, said he was surprised NHS’s mental health crisis team did not attend at the time. Dr Imran Hanif of Park Avenue Medical Centre was called on to see Miss Masters, who he heard had been “banging her head against walls.”

He made a call to the crisis team, based at Campbell House in Northampton, but they did not intervene.

“I attended, I felt this was a case where she needed urgent care,

“I felt unsupported.

“I felt I wasn’t given the support (Rethink staff) had asked for over the phone.”

A total of 19 witnesses are to be called to the stand throughout the six-day inquest, which is being presided over by assistant coroner for Northamptonshire Belinda Cheney.