A provider of specialist residential care for vulnerable people has agreed a damages settlement with the mother of a 33-year-old woman who died weighing just four stones.
Sammy Glew suffered with severe cerebral palsy throughout her life, which in turn caused her epilepsy. She did not developmentally progress beyond the age of a five-year-old and as a result required round-the-clock care and support.
Her mother Gwynneth Hunter looked after her at home for 32 years, but found it increasingly difficult with her needs increasing, and when left caring for her alone following her husband’s death.
As a result she decided to place her in specialist residential care for vulnerable adults, choosing the Hull-based Avocet Trust.
However, in less than a year Sammy lost two-and-a-half stones, and on January 19, 2015, died of aspiration pneumonia, epilepsy and cerebral palsy, weighing just four stones.
Now, after taking legal action through Hudgell Solicitors, Mrs Hunter says she will never forgive the Avocet Trust for its ‘disgusting treatment’ of her daughter.
Despite a safeguarding investigation concluding the care provided was negligent – an opinion supported by an independent nursing expert – the Avocet Trust made no admissions as part of the case, despite agreeing to pay a damages settlement.
Concerns raised following hospital treatment for chest infection
Concerns were first raised when Sammy, who shared a bungalow at Avocet’s St Georges Road residential site in Hull with three other residents, needed hospital treatment for a chest infection in December 2014.
It was alleged that after returning to the bungalow, her health rapidly deteriorated, and as part of the legal case, a string of care failings were alleged.
These included a failure to give Sammy painkillers she had been prescribed by her GP, frequently leaving her without water overnight and on some days providing her with less than a third of the fluids which had been recommended in her care plan, leaving her dehydrated.
It was also alleged that despite her food intake dropping rapidly and clearly losing weight, this was not recorded and her GP not informed.
A Safeguarding Investigation subsequently concluded that the care provided had been neglectful, and that the Avocet Trust’s manager and senior members of staff had failed to intervene when it was clear she needed greater care and hospital admission.
After legal representation was made, in which an independent expert nurse and case manager was consulted and also concluded the care had been negligent, a damages settlement was offered.
However, the Avocet Trust’s failure to apologise and admit neglect as part of the case has frustrated and angered Mrs Hunter.
“They were found to have been neglectful by the independent nursing expert and by the safeguarding investigation, yet they have not been prepared to make admissions as part of this legal process and have simply paid out damages to make it go away,” Mrs Hunter said.
“It was never about money for me, it was about holding them to account and looking for them to stand up and be counted and admit the care they provided was neglectful, and that it led to my beautiful daughter suffering and her health deteriorating. They have not done that and I think their whole approach has been disgusting and all about protecting their reputation.
“They know they have been in the wrong but won’t say it or admit it.
“It is heart-breaking to think back to how Sammy was. I had cared for her for 32 years around the clock but I needed specialist support at the time I turned to the Avocet Trust. They were meant to provide specialist, dedicated care, but they just neglected Sammy and failed to provide the basic standards of care.
“Sammy had a difficult life as she was starved of oxygen at birth and that led to her having cerebral palsy and needing that round-the-clock care. I think she suffered from neglectful care as she entered and left the world. That is so sad and so unfair.
“This wasn’t care, it was neglect which left her dying in agony. I can never forgive them and I had to see this legal case through for Sammy.”
Damages settlement reflected pain and suffering caused by neglectful care
Sam Thompson, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Mrs Hunter and said: “This was a very sad case in which Sammy was let down by the people whom her mother had trusted and expected to provide specialist care.
“At the time of Sammy’s admission to the Avocet Trust she had no illness or complexities other than the symptoms associated with Cerebral Palsy. She should have been going into residential care for a better quality of life.
“A safeguarding investigation found she had suffered neglect whilst under the care of the Avocet Trust. Despite staff frequently documenting concerns about her health deteriorating, even to the point where she was not eating, these health issues were ignored and a suitable care plan was not in place to address it.
“When she was admitted to hospital the second time she had a temperature of 39 degrees, was restless and had bruising and friction burns on her knees and elbows as she had been crawling due to pain and weakness.
“Perhaps most concerning of all in this case was the fact that staff had raised concerns and documented her declining health, from not eating to being too weak to stand and crying out in pain. Despite this her care was not altered to meet her increasing needs. She was simply left in pain and distress. It is a truly shocking account of neglectful care.
“We are pleased to have been able to secure damages in this case which reflect the neglectful care, but of course, no sum of money will lessen the hurt Mrs Hunter experienced, knowing her daughter suffered in this way.
“Our client’s frustration relating to no admissions being made, particularly given the evidence of poor care and the findings of independent experts, is fully understandable.”