Picture: Pixabay
Picture: Pixabay

Grandmother dies from listeria after eating hospital sandwich

By EMINE SINMAZ AND MILES DILWORTH Time of article published Aug 24, 2019

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West Sussex - A "much-loved" grandmother was named on Friday as the latest victim of the hospital food scandal.

Brenda Elmer, 81, is one of six patients who died after eating NHS sandwiches and salads – an outbreak which has prompted a ‘root and branch’ review of catering in hospitals.

She had eaten a contaminated sandwich at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.

But the former clerical assistant was not diagnosed with listeria until she was admitted to Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Kent.

Blood tests showed the mother of two, from Chevening near Sevenoaks, had been infected with the same strain of listeria which Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency later linked to sandwiches.

Her condition deteriorated and she died on July 17, an inquest was told.

Boris Johnson vowed on Thursday to end the hospital food scandal and appointed Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith to lead a review with the aim of setting strict new national standards.

Yesterday a former health chief blamed the listeria outbreak which began in April – and also included three non-fatal cases – on ‘systematic failings’ by the Government. Professor John Ashton criticised Public Health England for failing to spot the outbreak earlier and alert the public to the danger.

An online obituary said Mrs Elmer – who had been married to husband Alec, 80, for almost 58 years – had battled her illness with bravery. A keen churchgoer, she was a member of a bell-ringing group. A post by the Kent County Association of Change Ringers said: ‘Brenda Elmer sadly passed away after a short illness borne with courage and good humour.’

The inquest into her death opened at West Sussex Coroner’s Court earlier this week. It heard: ‘On June 2 Brenda Elmer was admitted to hospital with pyrexia [fever], increased lethargy, confusion and weakness.

"She was treated initially for sepsis of unknown origin and then treated for listeria meningitis following blood test results. Sadly her condition deteriorated in hospital and she died on July 17."

A doctor gave her cause of death as listeriosis, pneumonia and renal failure, and also breast cancer.

It is not clear when Mrs Elmer became infected by listeria or what she was being treated for at St Richard’s. But Public Health England revealed on August 1 that her death was one of the nine confirmed cases, and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed a patient at St Richard’s had been infected.

Other victims are thought to include former nurse Beverly Sowah, 57, and retired chemist Enid Heap, 84.

On May 25 sandwiches from a supplier in the Midlands were withdrawn from 43 NHS trusts.

But it was not until June 7 that Public Health England revealed details of the outbreak after tracing the bacteria to fillings supplied by North Country Cooked Meats, based in Salford.

Public Health England declined to comment last night.

Daily Mail

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