Croydon University Hospital has apologised for a miscommunication that meant three daughters were unable to spend the last moments with their beloved mum.

Sisters, Mandy, Claire and Kay from Thornton Heath were told by hospital staff that their mum, Catherine White, had a restless night but were reassured she was OK and told to return home.

Half an hour later they received the tragic news their mum had died from respiratory issues related to community acquired pneumonia and passed away at 8:28am on April 23, 2023 at the age of 61.

This news came as a shock to the sisters, as it meant their mother had died without any of her family beside her.

Middle sister Claire told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “What really hurt was that my mum’s biggest fear was to die alone. She’s always said that to us.

"They knew she was critical, and all they did was apologise. They could have told us how serious it was, and she could have had all her family around her.”

In an official apology letter to the sisters, seen by the LDRS, the hospital said: “There is no documentation that the seriousness of your mother’s condition was communicated to her daughter for which we must apologise as that is not reflective of the kind of compassionate care we expect people within our care to receive.”

In their apology, the hospital stated that community acquired pneumonia can cause death even when appropriately treated.

However, the sisters maintain that they would have stayed with their mum if this was correctly communicated to them.

Catherine was admitted to hospital the evening before with a bad chest infection, but her severe diabetes and gitelman’s disease made her particularly vulnerable. She was taken into the hospital by the eldest sister, Mandy, who was immediately told to wait outside for 20 minutes, denying her access to her mother in need.

The hospital noted this is often standard ward procedure but acknowledged the distress it may have caused.

After being allowed to wait and care for her mum, Mandy was told she could go home around midnight due to Catherine’s stable condition.

She told hospital staff on the resus ward to contact her if her condition changed, but according to Claire, the hospital waited for the family to enquire about her health.

Claire said: “When I rang the reception desk at 7:50am and they put me through the ward 10 minutes later because Croydon University Hospital was not usually quick to answer.

"When I asked to visit, they said yes because it was a resus ward. I asked if she was OK, they said yes she’s had a restless night, but she’s OK and they are waiting for another ward space to open up.”

“The reason why I arrived late to see her was because I went to the BP station in Mitcham to get her a sandwich.

"This is because the last time my mum was in Croydon University Hospital she was never fed, and she was diabetic. My sister, Mandy, then phoned me at 8:30, whilst I was just at the entrance to the hospital, to let me know my mum had gone.

“On the previous occasion when she was in hospital, I was at work and I had to leave because she wasn’t fed in the ward.

"She is insulin dependent, and she had to eat at 7:30/8 o’clock. She constantly called me until about 10 am to tell me she hadn’t eaten. I eventually had to leave my job and get her a ham sandwich because her insulin levels were bad. They were very aware of her situation, given the amount of times she had been in before.”

The sisters have refused to accept the apology issued by the hospital and wish to discuss their concerns with hospital staff in person.

However, the hospital refused cede to this request and instead insisted that all contact must go via email.

Claire said: “It’s the lack of communication that really upset us. I know it won’t bring her back though.

"After the apology I wrote them another list of questions that I still want answered, but I haven’t seen a response from it. They haven’t given me anything, they are just hoping I would go away.”

Mandy told the LDRS: “My mum died alone without her husband, her three daughters and four granddaughters by her side, and they say sorry, and it is a learning curve for them.

"They took the last moments we had with my mum, and I have to live with leaving my mum to die alone when those doctors and nurses knew my mum wouldn’t survive. How many more families are they going to hurt?”

Speaking to the LDRS yesterday, Claire gave an emotional tribute to her late mum, who previously worked at Thornton Heath’s Beulah Junior School.

She said: “My mum was the kindest person.

"She put everyone else first, even when everyone else treated her badly. She carried on regardless, she was a strong and calm woman. 

“If it wasn’t for my mum, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. That’s the case for my youngest sister Kay as well, if it weren’t for mum she wouldn’t be the mum she is to her baby. She has made us all really strong, powerful women, and we can only thank her for that.”

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Croydon University Hospital said: “We would again like to extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of Ms White and are very sorry that they feel unhappy with our care. We take all concerns very seriously and have investigated them thoroughly in discussion with the family. ”

“Our staff work tirelessly to give compassionate care and involve relatives in treatment decisions, especially when caring for someone at the end of their life.

"This includes making every effort to allow family members to spend time with their loved ones when possible, and we would be happy to discuss any further concerns with the family.”