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NHS blamed for woman's ‘avoidable’ fly death


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Thursday, 5 May 2016

NHS blamed for woman's ‘avoidable’ fly death

An enquiry has been launched into the death of a woman who swallowed a fly, following a series of blunders by the NHS and social services.

Neighbours said the woman had first complained of feeling unwell earlier in the week. “I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. I warned her that she could die,” said one, who urged her to go the doctor.

The woman turned instead to the internet, where she read about a traditional remedy on a self-help website.

Later she called NHS 111 worried about “a spider that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her”. The helpline staff failed to spot the symptoms of a potential fly-related condition and advised her to take two paracetamol.

In a subsequent call to the service, the woman’s claim to have swallowed a bird to deal with the spider was dismissed as “absurd”.

Unable to make an appointment with her GP and twice refused treatment by her local hospital’s A&E department, where staff accused her of time-wasting, the woman embarked on an increasingly desperate series of self-care interventions involving a cat, a dog, a goat and a cow.  

Neighbours finally dialled 999 after hearing neighing and clattering of hooves from the woman’s house, followed by cries for help.

In a statement, the local hospital said:  “A woman in her seventies was admitted last night complaining of severe indigestion having apparently swallowed a horse. She’s dead of course.”

The local coroner ordered a post mortem to establish the cause of death.

Social services’ bosses were at a loss to explain why they had ignored repeated warnings that the dead woman posed a risk to herself and local livestock.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised an immediate enquiry into the events surrounding the tragedy.

“Incidents of this kind are completely unacceptable in our NHS. The tragic case of this poor woman underlines the irresponsible actions of the BMA in supporting the industrial action by junior doctors and emphasises once again the vital importance of our manifesto commitment to a seven-day NHS,” he said.

Experts pointed to the dangers of self-administered animal-based treatments. “Anyone who swallows a fly should drink plenty of water and, if symptoms persist, seek medical advice. The unsupervised use of spiders and other predators may exacerbate the problem, leading in extreme cases to serious injury or death,” one said.

Public Health England promised to update its guidance on the public health risks posed by flying insects. A spokesman said: “Our advice to anyone tempted to swallow a fly is very clear: don’t.” 

Poetry editor: Julian Patterson


david seabrooke
david seabrooke says:
May 06, 2016 09:33 AM

Part of the learning from this incident highlighted the repeated use of the phrase "perhaps she'll die", which caused operators to miss the patient's deteriorating condition and to escalate accordingly. A secondary factor was the repeated failure to understand the underlying reasons for absorbeatur ipsa musca, which in this sad case may now never be known.

Chris Frith
Chris Frith says:
May 07, 2016 01:49 AM

Did 111 exclude the Blandford Fly which is a more frequent cause of hospital admissions,A&E and GP appointments at this time of year particularly in elderly ladies.

Sian Williams
Sian Williams says:
May 11, 2016 09:40 AM

Brilliant smile for a monday morning,it siad it all. Have you thought about how we can help 'The Old Woman who lived in a shoe' ...

Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
May 11, 2016 08:05 PM

That's really one for social services, Sian.

david seabrooke
david seabrooke says:
May 11, 2016 10:11 AM

... NHS England announces a new initiative to combat unwanted pregnancies in the footwear community...

Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
May 11, 2016 08:05 PM

Growing public health issue