Family claim woman’s treatment in care home during pandemic was ‘tantamount to torture’
A woman has claimed that her mother-in-law’s treatment in a care home during the Covid-19 pandemic was “tantamount to torture”, and that they were not told of her worsening condition.
Valerie Gowrley, 77, who has dementia, was discharged from Basildon Hospital and admitted to Bluebell Place Nursing & Residential Home in Grays, Essex, in October 2019.
Her daughter-in-law, Fiona Gowrley, 44, of Thurrock in Essex, said the pensioner was visited three times a day by her husband, Jim Gowrley, until visits were stopped in the first national lockdown in March 2020.
She said he was able to visit for 20 minutes per fortnight from June 2020 until he died unexpectedly in August 2020, aged 75.
Fiona Gowrley said the rest of the family had limited access and did not become aware of the extent of her mother-in-law’s deterioration until a visit in January this year.
She said Mrs Gowrley’s weight had dropped from 10st 12lb (69kg) to 6st 7lb (41.7kg), and she had developed five pressure sores, but, while they knew about one before March 2020, they did not learn of the others until they visited.
Fiona Gowrley said: “The sores on her body were huge and very deep.
“To leave her in that state without adequate pain relief was, in my view, tantamount to torture.
“Val was also skeletal after considerable and inexcusable weight loss since her arrival at Bluebell care home.”
She said the family removed her mother-in-law from the care home in February this year, and she is now being looked after at home by nurses and relatives, where she is “comfortable and contented”.
The care home said in a statement: “We are sorry to hear that the family feel that the care given to Mrs Gowrley did not meet their expectations.
“We are committed to providing the highest possible standards of care to all our residents.
“We cannot give a detailed response to the matters raised by the family of the resident concerned for privacy reasons.
“However, we can confirm that this matter was reported to, and thoroughly investigated by, Thurrock Council’s Safeguarding Team and the Care Quality Commission and to date Bluebell Place has not been found at fault and there has been no evidence of neglect.
“However, if the family is not happy with the outcomes of the local authority’s investigations and choose to persist with these allegations, we will co-operate fully and with complete transparency to any further investigations by any authorities who have the right to investigate such matters.
“We will not make any further comment on this matter until such time as any further investigations are concluded.”
The home was inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in May 2021 and rated as good, having previously been rated as requiring improvement in a report published in September 2019.
The most recent report said that inspectors “found improvements had been made and the provider was no longer in breach of … regulations”.
A CQC spokesman said: “We have been in contact with Fiona Gowrley and we are reviewing information she provided regarding her mother-in-law’s care.”
An Essex Police spokesman said an investigation is ongoing.
A spokesman for Thurrock Council said officers carried out a “full and thorough investigation of the circumstances” with the CQC and police.
“We have reported the findings of this investigation to the family and their advocates and continue to work closely with the privately-owned and operated home to ensure they provide the best care and support for their residents,” they said.
Priya Singh, of law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, which represents the family, said: “I urge all families to be vigilant in monitoring the service levels being delivered.”
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