Heating Broken At Harwell Care Home Where Eight Died

The central heating at a care home was broken for 10 days just before half of its residents died, it emerged today.

A Government watchdog is investigating the Crown Nursing Home, in Harwell, after eight elderly people died from chest-related illnesses between January 9 and 25.

The home’s owner, Southern Cross Healthcare, confirmed the heating broke down on Boxing Day and was not fixed until January 5.

The company said the heating problem was not linked to the deaths and insisted it had plans in place to deal with the breakdown.

A spokesman said: “Temporary back-up heaters were immediately made available to the home.

“At no time did temperatures fall below the recommended level. It was fixed by January 5. There is no indication it was linked to any of the deaths at all.

“There is an emergency plan in place for all homes which includes a supply of back-up heating being stored at central points. The heaters were supplied to the home from a central depot and were in place just over two hours after the heating went down.

“Temperatures were monitored throughout each day and a full log recorded to ensure temperatures did not fall below the statutory levels.

“Social services were informed of the incident and a monitoring officer visited the home, who was satisfied with the temperature and the heating arrangements in place.”

However, the firm would not say what ‘statutory levels’ were, how many heaters were used, nor where they were set up in the home.

Home manager May Sancio said earlier this week two men and six women had died.

Southern Cross said the deaths were caused by “individual, chest-related illnesses”.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection, which keeps tabs on adult social care in England, is investigating the 16-bed home and is considering if any action should be taken. Tonight it would not reveal if its investigation was linked to the heating problems.

Russell Riddiford, 61, a relative of resident Muriel Riddiford, 93, who died on January 13, said he also took heaters into the home.

The college technician, of Merritt Road, Didcot, said: “It was meant to be one of the coldest spells for years at that point.

“Myself and a relative of another resident took heaters in.”

Emma Calkin, of Ladygrove, Didcot, whose 107-year-old grandmother Elizabeth ‘Queenie’ Carpenter also died at the home, said: “I didn’t see her in the te n-day window the heating was off, but it was always warm in the care home and I didn’t notice anything wrong with the residents.

“The care home has always looked after grandma very well. She didn’t look particularly well when I last saw her, the Saturday before she died, but she had been on antibiotics for a chest infection.

“I feel sorry for the home that they have had to go through the grief of losing their residents and this as well.

“All the residents looked fine when I saw them and it wasn’t particularly cold in there.”

At the time of her death at 107, Mrs Carpenter was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, females in Oxfordshire.

Mrs Sancio said it was very warm in the care home. She said the eight remaining residents were all well.