The family of a pregnant mother who died because of a lack of staff at a hospital at a weekend have been given a six-figure compensation sum by the NHS.
Rebecca Ben-Nejma, 28, went to A&E on a Friday afternoon with a suspected ectopic pregnancy, a potentially fatal condition where the embryo implants outside the womb.
But instead of having an urgent scan to diagnose the problem she was sent home with painkillers and told to come back on Monday morning.
Maidstone Hospital in Kent was busy emptying for the weekend and staff told the mother-of-two there was no senior doctor available to see her.
By the following morning Rebecca was vomiting and extremely distressed and she returned to the hospital with her husband Walid.
She was examined by a junior doctor who consulted with a registrar and concluded she might be suffering from gastroenteritis.
She was sent home with a scan a second time and spent the evening in a hot bath trying to ease the excruciating pain.
But her condition deteriorated overnight and on the Sunday morning she collapsed in the arms of her daughter Charlotte on her 13th birthday.
Rebecca, who also had a young son Bailey, was rushed back to the hospital but suffered a heart attack in the ambulance.
She then suffered a second cardiac arrest during an emergency operation to remove the ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
She was kept alive on a life-support machine until her parents took the heartbreaking decision to switch it off after being told she was brain dead.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust admitted that if Rebecca had received the immediate care she needed then she would still be alive.
Her mother Marion Mitchell, 55, said: “If Rebecca had been able to have the scan, they would have detected that it was an ectopic pregnancy.
“She would now be alive to look after her children.
“None of the compensation is going to bring Rebecca back.”
Dr Paul Sigston, medical director at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, has apologised to the family for their failings over Rebecca’s death in December 2010.
He said: “The trust sincerely and unreservedly apologises for the failings that contributed to the death of Mrs Ben-Nejma, following the misdiagnosis of her condition at Maidstone Hospital.
“In order to ensure that such failings do not happen again the trust has introduced a range of measures, including strengthening the emergency gynaecology service, which is now centralised at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, and as a result of which patients now have better access to senior staff, diagnostic equipment and treatment of emergency situations.”
Rebecca’s family solicitor John Kyriacou said: “This is a devastating case for everyone involved.
“The NHS needs to be as effective during the weekend as it is during the week.”
The case follows an NHS England report last month showing 4,400 more people because of reduced hospital staff at weekends.
On some wards across the country there is just one senior doctor for every 100 beds on a Saturday and Sunday.
Roger Taylor, the director of research at Dr Foster Intelligence, said people could be put in unnecessary danger if they fall ill on a weekend.
He said: “Being admitted to hospital at weekends is risky. Patients are less likely to get treated promptly and more likely to die.”
Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, has said that moving to a seven-day week is a necessity.