Medical Negligence

National care home operator admits being at fault for death of 72-year-old dementia sufferer

hudgell solicitors represented tony and kay dearnley victim of fatal care home abuse concept representing medical negligence care home abuse compensation claims

Hayley Collinson

Manager of the Fixed Recoverable Costs Team & Senior Associate Solicitor

6 min read time
18 May 2016

A national care home operator which looks after hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people across the country has admitted being at fault for the death of a resident at one of its homes after facing legal action.

Prime Life Ltd – which runs more than 50 care and nursing homes across the country – was the subject of a major investigation around care provided at its Wyton Abbey facility near Hull, East Yorkshire, following the deaths of two residents within 10 months of one another.

Now, a legal case around the care of one of those residents has seen the firm admit being responsible for the 72-year-old’s death.

The case was handled by legal care home claims specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who are currently campaigning for improved care services across the UK and calling for CCTV to be made compulsory in all care and residential homes.

The legal case surrounded the care of dementia sufferer Tony Dearnley, who died after being placed in the home for respite by his wife, when she took a two-week holiday from the daily demands of being his carer.

During that two weeks, Mr Dearnley suffered a series of falls, leaving him with bruises on his arm, left hip, forehead, and nose.

His condition deteriorated quickly, hardly eating or drinking, but despite his obvious decline, staff were alleged to have failed to take appropriate action, leading a coroner to conclude that he could have been saved had medical attention being sought earlier.

A Serious Case Review highlighted medical negligence over a week-long period prior to Mr Dearnley’s death in July 2012, in which his condition ‘deteriorated rapidly’. The report said staff ‘did not appear to understand the seriousness of his condition and failed to respond on a number of different counts’.

Failings included;

  • No single person being responsible for the care of Mr Dearnley and a lack of coordination in his care.
  • Failing to contract a district nurse after his first fall – a decision which meant a GP was not contacted also.
  • Failing to seek medical assistance even though his behaviour changed significantly for four days.
  • Failing to inform a visiting district nurse that he’d suffered a number of falls, or contact a GP to monitor a head injury suffered in a fall.

The safeguarding report added: “There was a week when his health deteriorated and there was one safeguarding concern, but the home failed to call for any medical assistance. There appear to have been nine different staff members who recorded events relating to him, plus some that were not signed.”

When the home finally called paramedics on the day of his death, rapid response teams and ambulance teams reported that they found him appearing ‘neglected’ and being ‘critically ill’, with a strong odour and bedding needing changing.

They also found Mr Dearnley had a dislocated hip, and immediately suspected he was suffering from pneumonia. The safeguarding report also highlighted that Mr Dearnley hadn’t been eating or drinking for the previous fortnight, and was already in a ‘critical’ condition.

Staff were unable to provide any history about his medical condition, a fact which was later criticised by ambulance staff, and Mr Dearnley died three hours after arriving at Hull Royal Infirmary, from aspiration pneumonia.

The review also highlighted poor care provided to a man who died aged 65 at the home, having been a resident at Wyton Abbey for four months, whilst concerns were also raised over the care of a third resident due to the number of falls he suffered, and the management of his Alzheimer’s.

Mr Dearnley’s wife died during legal representations, but Prime Life Ltd recently agreed to pay £5,000 damages, as a result of the legal claim, to his estate. As he had no spouse or dependents, the amount of damages offered was at the lower end of the scale

Clinical negligence solicitor Hayley Collinson, of Hudgell Solicitors said: “Mr Dearnley’s care fell far short of the expected standard, with evidence that he was left in pain, unkempt, and treated with a lack of care or compassion over his lack of eating or drinking.

“His wife was unaware of her husband’s failing health, or that he wasn’t eating or drinking, and it must have been a huge shock to find him hours from death when she returned from her break.

“He had had several spells at Wyton Abbey to give his wife a break in caring from him, as he was suffering from dementia. To discover that he was being so badly neglected must have been devastating for his wife to discover, but by the time she knew how ill he was, it was tragically too late.

“This was an appalling case of neglect at every level, at a company which cares for hundreds of elderly people across the UK. Basic care standards were simply not met, and if they had been, Mr Dearnley’s untimely death would have been avoided.”

Hudgell Solicitors is currently campaigning for CCTV to be installed in all care homes across the UK to prevent cases of abuse and neglect and improve the commitment to providing quality care, ensuring the elderly and vulnerable are protected, respected, loved and cared for with dignity at all times. A petition to the Government generated 12,896 signatures.

Prime Life Ltd runs more than 50 care and residential homes across the UK, with its website saying ‘we specialise in providing a high quality standard of living tailored to our clients’ individual needs.’

At present, seven of its facilities have been rated as ‘requiring improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), whilst two have been rated as ‘inadequate’ – Hamilton House & Mews in Catfield, Near Stalham, and Phoenix Park Care Village, in Scunthorpe.

Another of its East Yorkshire based homes, Westerlands Nursing Home, in Elloughton, was rated as requiring improvement when inspected in December 2015, and is currently being re-inspected to see if improvements have been made.

Wyton Abbey was closed in 2015 and was ‘archived’ on the Care Quality Commission website on May 8, 2015, having being de-registered by its owners.

Responding to the claim made regarding Mr Dearnley’s death, insurers acting on behalf of owners Prime Life Ltd wrote: “Upon consideration of both content of the Serious Case Summary and Coroner’s verdict, a viable defence to the allegations of neglect is unrealistic.”

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National care home operator admits being at fault for death of 72-year-old dementia sufferer

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