Care Staff Banned From Dialling 999

A woman of 85 was left to die after falling down a flight of stairs at a care home because staff were banned from dialling 999. Mary Carty fractured her spine and suffered a serious head wound when she tumbled down a staircase at a private residential home.

But instead of telephoning for an ambulance, Mrs Carty was left in agony at the foot of the stairs by staff who were told it was against ‘policy’ to dial 999 without speaking to the home’s owner first.

An inquest heard that they waited 20 minutes before calling paramedics but by then it was too late.

Mrs Carty, a retired nurse who worked at King’s College Hospital in London most of her working life, died before the ambulance arrived.

Two members of staff have since quit their jobs in protest at the regulations, at the £325-a-week Felix Holme care home, in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

Last night Mrs Carty’s son, Rory Carty, 65, said his mother might have survived if the ambulance had been called earlier.

“If the paramedics had got to her sooner then at least my mother would have stood a chance,” Mr Carty, a retired carpenter, said.

“She was not a frail old woman, she was still strong and full of life.

“As a nurse, she spent her life caring for others and to think she died in agony waiting for the medical help she needed is heartbreaking.

“I don’t know how she fell down the stairs but there was a 20-minute delay before the emergency services were called and by the time the ambulance got to the home she was dead. “They tried to revive her but their efforts were in vain. It was all too late.

“I miss her terribly and, although she was old and had had a good life, I am sad that it ended in such a traumatic way for her. She deserved better.”

An inquest, at Eastbourne Magistrates Court, heard that care worker, Julie Castro, found Mrs Carty at the bottom of a staircase at the home, where she had lived for more than two years, shortly after 12.30am on August 14 2006.

Following protocol, Ms Castro said that, although Mrs Carty’s injuries were “very serious”, she called the care home owner, Elizabeth Keyworth, rather than telephoning an ambulance.

When asked why she had not called the emergency services immediately, Ms Castro told the hearing: “I wasn’t allowed. We were told we weren’t allowed to do it.”

But instead of authorising Ms Castro to dial 999, Mrs Keyworth insisted she wait until she got to the home to assess the situation.

Mrs Keyworth told the hearing that she had failed to understand how serious Mrs Carty’s injuries were, but admitted it was the home’s policy for staff to call a manager before an ambulance.

“Incorrectly, I assumed Mrs Carty had fallen down a much smaller flight of steps near her room and not the main staircase,” she said.

“Julie asked me if she should get an ambulance and I said no and I would come over to the house because on other occasions an ambulance has been called when a person was not in a bad state.”

The inquest also heard how the home’s manager, Karen Karchinski, had been unhappy with the rule and insisted it should be quashed.

But only since Mrs Carty’s death has the home agreed to reverse it’s policy.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, deputy coroner Joanna Pratt said she was “unhappy” and “concerned” with the care home’s policy not to allow staff to call for an ambulance before speaking to the home’s owner.

But she added: “I am pleased to note these instructions have been changed and staff now do have the responsibility to call the emergency services.”