Hudgell Solicitors is supporting the family of an elderly woman who had to undergo a four hour operation after suffering second degree burns on a care home radiator.
Kathleen Waters, 80, who suffered from dementia, was found slumped against the uncovered radiator in her bathroom in the home.
She required treatment at three hospitals in London, including Chelsea and Westminster Hospital specialist burns unit, over a two-month period before she was well enough to be discharged to a new home.
The Manor House care home in Morden, south London, was recently ordered to pay £24,600 in fines and costs after a case was brought against it by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for failing in its duty to provide safe care and treatment.
Its owners admitted failing to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm to Mrs Waters.
They are now facing a civil claim for neglect as Mrs Waters’ daughter, Amanda Drinkall, instructed legal action through Hudgell Solicitors.
Legal claim highlights failings in care as cause of accident
In an accident and incident investigation report carried out by a senior manager or supervisor at the home, it was stated that ‘management failure to provide proper guards or covers to the radiator’ were the cause of the accident, and that the uncovered radiator had not been considered ‘high risk’ before the incident.
A legal claim served on the home owners alleges a number of other failings which meant staff were not alerted to Mrs Waters’ fall, and left her unable to call for help.
Mrs Waters’ admission record to Manor House stated that she was “high risk” and had a “high dependency level of care”.
A sensor mat was identified as being needed to alert medical staff when she got out of bed, with a call bell also required. These were to be checked to ensure they were in working order every night, and every time she was in her bedroom.
The admission records also stated that a security check must be carried out at least hourly every night.
However, a Health and Safety review after the accident revealed the sensor mat was ‘nowhere to be found in her bedroom’ and that ‘no one knows who removed it’.
The call bell cord provided in her bedroom toilet was also not long enough for Mrs Waters to reach from the floor, and as she had Aphasia, a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems with speech, she could not call for help.
Family launched care home compensation claim to prevent future incidents
Daughter Amanda Drinkall, 44, a student podiatrist from Mitcham in Surrey, said: “We chose Manor House because it seemed to be the best. It was home from home – a nice, safe environment with really friendly and caring staff. That’s what you want for your mum.
“It has been a nightmare though and I feel completely let down and disappointed that this was allowed to happen to my mum. You put your trust in these professionals and people who are supposed to put checks in place to make sure your loved ones are safe. I thought my mum was safe.
“I want justice for my mum and lessons have to be learned. I don’t want anyone else to go through what my mum and my family have been through.”
As part of the civil claim, it was alleged the sensor mat was unreasonably removed from Mrs Waters’ room, that staff failed to provide a carer to help her, failed to recognise the exposed radiator as a health and safety risk and failed to note a floor mat in the bathroom as a tripping hazard.
In addition, it was alleged the home failed to provide a help cord long enough to reach the floor, and that there was a delay in performing a security check round that morning due to Mrs Waters’ carer being late.
The home also faces an allegation of failure to call an ambulance within a reasonable time after Mrs Waters was found.
Patient needed surgery, suffered scars and deterioration in health
As a result, it is claimed unnecessary surgery had to take place on November 23, 2015. Mrs Waters was left scarred, endured pain and suffering, developed a pressure sore after her operation, and suffered further deterioration in her physical and mental health, as well as psychological trauma.
Mrs Waters, who was widowed 23 years ago, was transferred to a new home when she left hospital, but died in May of a heart attack.
Mrs Drinkall said: “By the end she’d gone through a lot of pain and I sat with her for about three days. She was crying constantly. She’d had enough and didn’t want to be there. The care home she was moved to was lovely and she was very well looked after, but she’d given up because it was all too much for her to deal with.
“She was mobile before the accident, but she didn’t want to stand or walk afterwards, and the pressure sore was painful for her. I believe she’d had enough after the accident. She was depressed. It was horrific. No one wants to see their mum go through that.”
Solicitor says shortfalls in care provision were ‘unforgiveable’
Solicitor Sue Jackson, of Hudgell Solicitors, is representing the family, and said: “Mrs Waters was badly let down by the care home through a string of care failings. Firstly, a radiator with the capacity to cause such injuries should not have been in her bathroom uncovered, and serious questions have to be asked as to why this was not identified as an injury risk before the accident.
“Carers were then unaware Mrs Waters was out of bed and not on hand to assist her because the required sensor mat was not present. Had this been there her carers would have been alerted to her movements and been able to assist her, either preventing her fall or coming to her aid quickly and preventing such serious burns being suffered.
“Finally, had the call cord been of an appropriate length, she would have been able to call for assistance, again something which could have resulted in help being much speedier and less serious injuries being suffered.
“The home was aware that Mrs Waters regularly fell and had seizures, with conditions affecting her speech, mobility and ability to look after herself, so to know this and still have these shortfalls in care is unforgivable.
“Sadly, she went through a horrific experience and suffered burns that were easily avoidable through simple steps. We know the legal case cannot turn back the clock, but we certainly hope that valuable lessons are learned to avoid any future suffering for future residents at this home.
“At present the defendants have indicated to us a willingness to pay damages, but as yet we’ve not had a formal admission of liability, although of course there has been a recent admission of failing to provide safe care and treatment in the Magistrates’ Court.”