Care home owners deny abuse of residents on alternative medicine

THE owners and manager of a Yorkshire care home at the centre of an abuse probe have denied any wrongdoing and say they have nothing to hide.

Detectives are investigating claims that mentally handicapped adults were neglected and ill-treated at the privately-run Woodlands residential home in Nostell Lane, Ryhill, near Wakefield.

On Monday they arrested the owners, Trevor and Barbara Foster, and the manager, Lisa Thorn, all of whom have strenuously denied the allegations.

All three were released on bail pending further inquiries after being interviewed at Wood Street in Wakefield. The allegations include:

Residents being pushed and sworn at;

Residents not given enough food and drink;

Home too cold in winter;

“Chaotic” system for providing meals;

Out-of-date food stored and served up;

“Excessive importance” given to weighing residents and measuring thighs, knees and ankles;

Residents not being allowed showers when they want;

“Excessive and widespread” use of alternative remedies – including homeopathy and using honey to treat cataracts;

Residents having to pay for homeopathic treatment;

Management’s “apparent reluctance” to seek conventional medical input;

Inappropriate siting of indoor CCTV cameras.

Wakefield Council, which is looking into the claims, revealed the allegations in a 10-page document which was handed to the Fosters and Lisa Thorn on March 20, nearly two months after allegations were made in a letter, believed to be anonymous.

Some of the home’s alleged failings were identified by the Commission for Social Inspection whose inspectors visited after the initial allegations were made in January.

The CSCI has told Wakefield Council and the Fosters that provision of meals and food was “chaotic” and an inspector “discovered large amounts of evidence to confirm that service users are receiving very little and go for long periods without food or drink.”

The CSCI also found evidence of “excessive importance” being given to weighing residents.

Inspectors said residents were given alternative remedies, including honey, and that such remedies were used to excess.

All the claims have been rejected by the Fosters and Lisa Thorn. In a letter through a solicitor, Ms Thorn has told Wakefield Council that she had never witnessed swearing or pushing and residents were always asked if they had eaten enough.

In the letter, she admits some failings with stock rotation which allowed out-of-date food to build up.

She says weighing residents has been done for 15 years, with no complaints from inspectors, and was used to detect health problems.

Ms Thorn said honey had been used in the past but the practise had ended. She said homeopathic treatments were used in tandem with conventional treatments.

Residents had been charged for the services of the homeopath for many years, without criticism from Wakefield Council or CSCI, she said.

Last night Mr Foster said his main concern was not for himself but for the 18 residents, some of whom had lived at Woodlands for 25 years, and the 12 staff, who he fears may lose their jobs.

Although the home remains open, he and his wife and Ms Thorn have agreed to stay away during the investigation.

“Residents’ parents have told us that the home will be closed by next Thursday. No-one has told us. We have owned and run this home for 25 years, with annual inspections and no problems. All of a sudden we are the worst of the worst.

“The residents say they don’t want to leave. They are supposed to have the same rights as anybody else but what has happened to their rights? We have always been open; this is tearing us apart. We feel useless, we can’t do anything for the residents.”

Some parents of Woodlands residents are standing by the Fosters.

One said: “We are very satisfied with our daughter’s care and the place itself. We have visited every week for three years. We don’t know what the allegations are but as far as we know there is nothing.”

Last night Wakefield Council said the home remained open and that it would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation was ongoing.