London hospital apologises after parents unable to see dying son

·3-min read
Ollie Bibby and mother Penny  (facebook/penny bibby)
Ollie Bibby and mother Penny (facebook/penny bibby)

A London hospital has pledged to review visiting restrictions after it prevented parents from seeing their dying son in his final weeks.

Ollie Bibby died of leukaemia aged just 27 at University College London Hospital (UCLH) on 5 May.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the case in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Mr Bibby’s mother Penny, from Benfleet, Essex, told the BBC: “All we want from this is for policies to be reviewed. This has to stop.”

She revealed she had received a letter from acting chief executive of UCLH Tim Jaggard.

Mrs Bibby told the broadcaster it was a “pleasant surprise” and she hoped it would help other people be with their loved ones in hospital.

The grieving mother added: “This is the outcome we wanted. We just don’t want any other families to go through this. We feel like Ollie would be proud of us for taking a stand on this.”

Mr Jaggard said in his letter: “Many of our patients are extremely vulnerable and we have had to balance the need to keep them safe from a new and serious disease against the need to show compassion for individuals cases. I’m sorry if we did not get this balance right for you and Ollie.”

He added: “I would like to assure you we are reviewing how we implement the national guidance.”

Mrs Bibby had said it was not fair that visiting rules were “like a lottery”, with each hospital interpreting national government guidance differently.

Her son died the day before Matt Hancock was filmed kissing a colleague triggering his resignation as health secretary.

Mrs Bibby subsequently said she was “livid” he broke social distancing rules, as she was prevented from being with her son.

While he was dying in hospital, her son felt like he was “in prison”, she said, and begged to see his family, but they were “treated like criminals” and “barely allowed in” due to Covid restrictions.

Sir Keir raised the case at Prime Minister’s Questions. However, Mrs Bibby said she felt Boris Johnson “dismissed” his question and avoided answering it.

In a statement, a UCLH spokesperson told the BBC the hospital had always followed national visiting guidelines to protect patients, many of whom were extremely vulnerable, from Covid-19.

They said: “We know safety needs to be balanced with compassion for patients’ individual circumstances so our staff do have some scope for discretion around visiting.”

Additional visiting arrangements had been put in place for Mr Bibby’s family, they said.

“It has been a challenge to strike this balance during the pandemic but we believe our staff have always tried their best in very difficult circumstances and we are always looking at how we can improve further.

“We are reviewing how we implement national visiting guidance during the pandemic and listening to what our patients and their families tell us about the impact it has on their care.

“We are in contact with Oliver’s family to learn from their experiences and our deepest sympathies go to his parents, brothers and wider family and friends at this very difficult time.”

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