Elderly care home residents died after suffering ‘severe neglect’

Five elderly care home residents who died within two weeks of each other had suffered “severe neglect”, an official inquiry concluded today.

After a serious case review into the deaths last year found that Parkside House, in Northampton, “simply could not manage” its residents’ physical and nutritional needs, the Care Quality Commission described the standard of care at the home as appalling.

The independent chairman of the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Board (SOVA), Marie Seaton, said the elderly people, aged between 83 and 100, had died in circumstances that “none of us would wish our mothers or fathers, or sons or daughters, to die in”.

The review also found there had been warning signs of a decline in standards. But it was only when one woman was admitted to hospital with severe pressure sores, on 21 July last year, that the alarm was raised. She was described as unresponsive and dehydrated and her symptoms were considered by hospital staff to be consistent with severe neglect. She died the following day.

Another resident died on the same day at Parkside, and on 24 July three more were moved out of the home. By 6 August all three had died.

The review found they had been suffering a lack of basic care. Verdicts of natural causes were recorded in all five deaths, but the report concluded they died from causes “considered to be consistent with the effects of severe neglect”. Health and social care staff who went into Parkside in July 2009 reported “grave concerns” and the remaining residents were removed.

The home’s registration was later cancelled by the CQC and yesterday the watchdog said seven members of staff and the owner of the home had been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

It been set up to look after people over 65 suffering from dementia and long-standing mental illness, but by July 2009 it was looking after residents who also had considerable physical and nutritional needs that it could not deal with, the review found.

“Although it is not possible for us to know for sure what was happening at Parkside House during this time, the review has shown that there were warning signs that the management of Parkside was failing to deliver leadership required to ensure a clear focus on resident safety and wellbeing,” Seaton said.

No individual from an outside agency was said to have failed in their duty.

The home had been inspected by the CQC’s predecessor, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), in November 2008 and rated “adequate” – the second rating on a four-grade scale.

But the review found standards declined after that. Author Graham Sloper said: “There were fairly clear signs from both the CQC and the Northamptonshire county council contract monitoring process that standards were slipping … this decline was linked to a lack of leadership and management control at the home.”

But it said the 2008 inspection brought only three comments from families, all of which were positive. The CQC said despite council monitoring, regular GP visits and the presence of registered nurses, it had no idea of any concerns from that point until it was alerted on 22 July.

Its director of operations, Amanda Sherlock, said: “It is not acceptable that anyone, in any care setting, should suffer the appalling standard of care that was provided here.”

The commission said the way the health and adult social care sector was regulated was changing and under a new tougher system of registration CQC would continuously monitor standards of safety and quality. None of the families of the people who died were present as the report was unveiled, but reporters were told they had a mixed reaction, with some very angry and others believing the home was adequate.

Northamptonshire county council, which had placed five residents in Parkside House, two of whom were among the five who died, said the residents did not receive the level of care they deserved.

“It’s clear that these people were let down by the quality of management and nursing care in this home,” said the council’s corporate director of health and adult social services, Charlie McNally.

The panel said an action plan had been put in place to prevent a similar situation developing at any other care home in Northamptonshire and improvements were being made.