Medical Negligence

Staff member alerted watchdog to neglectful care of dementia patient during period of restrictions on family visits during Covid lockdown

patient in bed being examined for pressure sores

Michelle Nurse


6 min read time

A family were unaware that their grandfather had been neglected over the final weeks of his life in a care home until they were alerted to an investigation which had been instigated by whistleblowing staff.

A referral was made to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) a day after the resident had died, alleging he had been denied medical help in the home.

It resulted in an investigation being launched which found the home had failed to follow procedures relating to medication, pain management, managing deteriorating health and with regards to ensuring patients were treated with dignity and respect.

It also found that a nursing assistant had ignored signs of illness, argued with staff when they raised concerns and made them move him against his wishes.

Even though staff reported the resident being in constant pain – and suffering from pressure sores which left him with little skin on his bottom – he was not given the maximum amount of pain relief he was able to have on any day over a 12 day period, even though the home had tablets in stock.

The investigation also found that the nursing assistant delayed calling out paramedics by 45 minutes when requested to do so by a GP, and ‘denied a hospital admission’ by failing to share his full medical history when they were at the home.

The assistant nurse told staff the resident was ‘playing up’ and that there was ‘nothing wrong with him’ when concerns were raised, the investigation found.

Family were not able to visit during Covid-19 lockdowns

The man had been admitted to the care home for respite and was diagnosed with dementia two months later.

A care plan recognised he was at very high risk of pressure damage as he was incontinent of faeces, had dry, broken and flaky skin and was diabetic. His skin was noted to have been intact at that time.

When he was eventually admitted to hospital – a day before he died – he was noted to have multiple grade 3 pressure sores to his sacrum and buttocks, a grade 1 sore to his penile area and necrotic heels.

His left big and middle toes and left heel were gangrenous and he was missing his big and little toenails. Both toes were black. It was noted that he appeared to have been ‘very neglected.’

Following a legal claim, led by Hudgell Solicitors, a damages settlement has now been agreed out of court with the man’s family, without any admissions of breach of duty being made.

His granddaughter said she had to take legal action to fight for justice, as that is what he would have wanted.

“The really sad thing about it all was that my grandfather was a gentleman who cared for people and would always think of others, but he was not cared for at all,” she said.

“I took legal action because I know if he’d seen this happen to somebody when he was younger. He’d have said to not let it go and to make sure people were held to account. I did it for him.

“As it was during the Covid lockdowns we had no way of knowing what was happening and how he was really being looked after. We’d never be allowed in, and so we’d see him at a door or a window and he’d say he was fine, and nurses would tell us he was doing well, but of course given his dementia he wasn’t in a position to tell us.

“Perhaps if we’d been able to go in, somebody would have alerted us to what was happening, but of course that wasn’t the case. It’s heartbreaking to think he was in such pain, was basically dying and being denied painkillers and treatment, and that we couldn’t be there for him.

“We only started to find out what had happened when we were contacted about a month after he died to say there had been concerns raised by staff and his care was subject to an investigation. I am grateful to the people who spoke up, as we need more people to do that.

“I think in this case it was just a couple of individuals, not the home. The majority of the staff were kind and compassionate, but they were unable to make more senior staff listen. It was appalling.

“I am glad they were caught and hope those responsible are never allowed to work in care again.”

Shocking catalogue of neglectful treatment

Michelle Nurse, of Hudgell Solicitors’ medical negligence claims team, led the case on behalf of the woman.

She alleged a string of failings, including not providing access to health care professionals, failing to provide a full history to paramedics, not spotting and acting upon care needs and pain and deteriorating health, and not providing pain appropriate relief.

It was also alleged there had been a failure to adhere to skin integrity care plans resulting in the development of the pressure sores he had at the time of his death.

“The findings of the investigation in this case were quite simply shocking as they detailed a catalogue of neglectful treatment, despite many staff members having raised their concerns and always sought to do their best,” she said.

“For a nursing assistance with seniority within a care setting to dismiss staff concerns with regards to patients’ health and care, not provide full and appropriate levels of pain relief, delay calling paramedics when requested to by a GP and then not give them all the relevant medical information is absolutely appalling.

“Our client was extremely shocked and saddened when the full scale of neglect was revealed in the investigation report, and although the legal case cannot turn back the clock, she wanted to hold people to account and get some form of justice for her grandfather, and we are pleased that she feels this case has helped her do that.”

The woman added: “Michelle has been a brilliant support as she has been so caring, compassionate and understanding throughout. She warned me about the findings of the investigation and that I would find it difficult to read, but then stood by me to take on the care home in the legal case, and do what my grandad would have wanted.”

Care Home Neglect Compensation Claims

Our care home claims solicitors always handle cases with sympathy and sensitivity, putting the best interests of the individual in care at the forefront of our work at all times.

We’re passionate about protecting vulnerable people and can provide access to immediate support and legal advice across England and Wales. At the initial consultation, we will discuss what happened confidentially and determine whether your case is likely to proceed. We will also try to establish who you could claim damages from and provide you with free advice about your case.

Read more: Care Home Neglect Compensation Claims

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