A HOSPICE has insisted lessons have been learnt after a staff slip-up led to a patient's death.

Helen & Douglas House has stressed it holds safety at its heart, despite the tragic death of Emily Bushaway last year.

A coroner ruled on Wednesday that neglect at Douglas House was partly to blame for the 21-year-old's suffocation on May 14.

She died after a nurse accidentally threw away a vital piece of breathing equipment keeping Miss Bushaway alive. 

The Magdalen Road hospice said in a statement yesterday: "We acknowledge fully and respect the findings of the coroner's ruling.

"Following the incident we conducted an immediate review of clinical procedures - the safety and care of patients is our priority. 

"We have taken action to ensure this type of incident won't happen again, and continue to review our clinical practice, with safety at the heart of our decisions."

Oxford Coroner's Court heard a part-time nurse mistakenly binned part of a 'whisper valve' on Miss Bushaway's ventilation machine, while replacing a connecting tube.

Miss Bushaway, who lived in Hertfordshire, had rare Nieman-Pick disease and relied on the ventilator to breathe out.

The nurse's mistake broke the circuit and meant Miss Bushaway could not breathe. 

But staff told the court they had never encountered the valve before and failed to recognise their mistake, despite the machine's warning alarm sounding, until Miss Bushaway's dad Mark Greener spotted the error 45 minutes later.

On Wednesday he accused staff of 'woeful' response and stressed how he had checked three times prior to Miss Bushaway's stay they were familiar with the ventilator.

The court heard a similar incident had occurred at the hospice in January last year: a nurse accidentally removed part of a patient's 'whisper valve' from a similar ventilator, causing the machine to alarm all morning.

The patient's mum noticed it was missing and replaced it, but did not understand the valve's importance until hearing of Miss Bushaway's death, so had not reported it to senior hospice staff.

Helen & Douglas House, which specialises in respite care for children and young people, had looked after Emily eight times previously but never with the ventilator.

It said: "We were privileged to look after Emily for more than two years prior to this tragic incident. 

"Our thoughts are with Emily’s family at this very difficult time and we would like to reiterate our deep and sincere condolences for their loss."

The hospice was unable to confirm if the nurse who made the fatal mistake was still working there.

It added: "It would be inappropriate to comment on individuals involved. We will be taking appropriate internal action."

In court the hospice's clinical services director said they have completely overhauled training since Miss Bushaway's death.