An east Suffolk woman suffered irreversible brain damage caused by an ear infection while she waited two weeks for a CT scan.

Alison Whiting, 44, had attended the A&E department at Ipswich Hospital five times in March and April last year, Essex Coroner’s Court was told on Monday.

There were delays escalating her treatment and Mrs Whiting, from Rendlesham, near Woodbridge, was eventually transferred to Colchester Hospital, where an ear infection then spread to her brain.

Mrs Whiting died on April 12.

Treatment – Alison Whiting was a patient at Colchester Hospital when her condition deterioratedAlison Whiting was a patient at Colchester Hospital when her condition deteriorated (Image: Newsquest)

A pathologist concluded she died of multi-organ failure, caused by pseudomonas septicaemia due to a right ear infection.

The inquest was told there was insufficient demand at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals for East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) to provide on-call ear, nose and throat specialists simultaneously on both sites.

The result was that Mrs Whiting was transferred from Ipswich Hospital to Colchester, but clinicians at Colchester Hospital were not informed and were unable to access the medical notes which were made at Ipswich.

The inquest heard Mrs Whiting had been screaming in pain such was the severity of the infection, and that nurses had become concerned by the frequency she was requesting painkillers.

Despite being in extreme discomfort, Mrs Whiting was set to be discharged two days before she died, but ear, nose and throat nurse practitioner Jacob Paton told the inquest he intervened because he was concerned the infection could spread to the skull.

In a phone call, he told Mrs Whiting’s father, Ramon Sheppard, she would not be discharged because of the level of pain she was experiencing and he would escalate her treatment.

Because there was no ear, nose and throat clinician at the hospital, Mr Paton requested for the on-call anaesthetist to review Mrs Whiting, but was told he was preparing for emergency surgery.

Court – the coroner's court heard the inquest into the death of Alison Whiting, aged 44The coroner's court heard the inquest into the death of Alison Whiting, from Rendlesham (Image: Daniel Rees, Newsquest)

Mrs Whiting lost consciousness, and by the time a CT scan finally took place, it showed the patient’s entire brain had swollen, according to anaesthetist Dr Ramabhadran Sreenivasan.

He said: “The situation would have been different if a CT scan had been done 24 hours earlier.”

Dr Prashant Kashyap said an earlier CT scan “would have given us a bigger window of opportunity to transfer her to a centre where something could have been done”.

The coroner ruled Mrs Whiting died of natural causes.