Published: 10:26, 31 May 2019
| Updated: 11:14, 31 May 2019
An elderly widow had to spend her final days without her wedding ring of nearly six decades after it was reportedly stolen from her finger as she battled sepsis from a hospital bed.
Margaret Richards was first admitted to Maidstone Hospital when her daughter, Louise Clyne, found her confused on the floor of her home.
She spent two-and-a-half weeks as an inpatient before being discharged to a residential home, though she was rushed back to hospital 10 days later with severe sepsis, hypoglycaemia and acute kidney injury.
The majority of this stay was spent in a small, white-walled side-room on Chaucer Ward without a TV, as Mrs Clyne's request for her mother to be moved back into a bay - agreed by a nurse on the ward - never materialised.
After asking for a bedpan on Mrs Richards' behalf, Mrs Clyne returned to find the side-room door open, with a 'wet floor' sign in the doorway and a member of staff mopping the floor.
They claimed they did not know she was using a bedpan, but no apology was given, which the daughter said demonstrated a lack of respect for the patient's privacy or dignity.
The sepsis quickly took effect and the patient became confused, thinking it was 1941, that she was 10 years old and that evacuees were arriving.
It was during the confusion that the wedding ring disappeared, with Mrs Clyne adamant it was stolen from her mother's finger during the night, as she had taken a photo of her that day and the ring, which Mrs Richards always wore, had been clearly visible.
It was later established there were 15 points on the hospital trust’s patients’ property policy that had not been adhered to and items had been 'lost’ because staff did not follow that policy.
Any of the 15 actions could have lessened the chance of Mrs Richards’ ring being stolen, it was concluded.
A meeting of the board of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, was told how Mrs Richards wore her wedding ring for 58 years and that her daughter sat by her side and held her left hand as she died.
When it came to the end, Mrs Richards could not have her husband with her as he had died 12 years earlier, and she could not even have his ring, which was hugely distressing for the patient, the meeting heard.
The trust said a red/green sign has subsequently been introduced for side-room doors - where read means 'do not enter' and green allows entry.
A spokeswoman added: “We are sorry for the distress caused to the patient’s family during what was already a very difficult time.
“We understand just how important patients' valuables and property are to their relatives.
"We are currently reviewing our policy to ensure we keep patient property safe, as well as actively reminding staff to do all that they can to keep items, such as rings, secure.”
Mrs Clyne and her family said they felt too distressed to comment further.