Family of care home patient who died after being left for 13 hours receive five-figure pay out

April 8, 2013 | by | 0 Comments
Rita Smith, who died in agony from bed sores

Rita Smith, who died in agony from bed sores

The family of a retired Red Cross nurse whose body became ‘fused’ in the foetal position after being left for up to 13 hours without being turned over have received a five-figure pay out.

Rita Smith, 74, was moved into a care home after developing dementia in March 2008.

But just eight months later she died after developing MRSA as a result of months of appalling neglect.

The retired nurse had spent 35 years teaching first aid and had campaigned for greater care for the elderly as well as volunteering in prisons and colleges.

When her health deteriorated her family paid £2,000-a-month for her to have round-the-clock care at Waterloo House care home in Bidford-on-Avon, Warks., in March 2008.

Her GP put a care plan in place which stipulated the grandmother-of-two needed to be turned every two hours to prevent her joints becoming stiff.

But six months later, doctors discovered she was weak, dehydrated and suffering from pressure sores.

Records showed on one occasion she was not turned for a shocking 13 hours.

Her joints were so stiff she had become fused into the foetal position and she was transferred to Warwick Hospital where it was revealed she had MRSA in her wounds.

She was moved to the Ellen Badger Hospital in Shipston-on-Stour, Warks., on November 21, 2008, but died just three days later.

Her family sued the care home and last week Alpha Care Homes Ltd, which runs Waterloo House, agreed a five figure sum out-of-court settlement.

Her daughter Debbie Wride blasted care staff for their ‘unforgivable’ care.

She said: “Mum was in a very vulnerable condition, but we all put our trust in the care home believing that they were doing their best for her.

Waterloo House care home where Rita was a resident

Waterloo House care home where Rita was a resident

“They reassured us they could care for her needs, but as the weeks went by we started to seriously question the quality of care she was given.

“Mum was passionate about teaching high standards of nursing care. For her to die in this way is unforgivable.

“Mum used to always say one of the fundamentals of nursing care was to make sure that your patient avoided a pressure sore.

“She dedicated her life to caring for others, but when she was reliant upon others to care for her, she was totally let down.

“She spent her last weeks in agony and did not get the care she deserved.

“Her death has devastated the entire family.

“We are so angry about the level of care she received, from a care home that she was paying over #2,000 per month of her hard earned savings for.

“But this was never about the money, we’ve never had an apology and we still do not feel we have all the answers as to why she was not regularly turned by care home staff who should have known better.”

Debbie added: “When she was admitted to hospital, doctors told us that her body was fused in the foetal position, suggesting it was likely because she had barely been turned.”

Lucy Erskine, a solicitor for Irwin Mitchell who represented the family, said: “Despite a very clear care plan, the instructions were not fully implemented by the care home staff.

“The care home’s records show that on one occasion Rita was left for 13 hours without being moved.

“Debbie is understandably distraught by her mother’s death and, in particular, the fact that severe pressure sores were allowed to develop to the extent that they did.

“Pressure sores of this kind are completely avoidable if proper care and procedures are followed.”

Doctors at Warwick Hospital discovered a pressure sore on her bottom which was graded at level four – the most serious grading for sores.

It was discovered the sore had become infected with MRSA and she was treated for blood poisoning before being transferred to Ellen Badger Hospital.

She died on November 24, 2008.

Remarkably, the care home currently has a clean bill of health from the Care Quality Commission – based on a range of self-assessments and formal inspections.

A spokesman for Alpha Care Homes said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Mrs Smith’s family and regret that on this occasion the standard of care fell below the level we require and expect.

“Alpha Care Homes prides itself on its quality of care but we clearly let Mrs Smith down and we are very sorry.

“Since 2008 new systems have been implemented to assist and monitor the management of pressure sores.

“Our way of working has changed completely and is audited at group level as well as at each home.

“Our care is constantly reviewed and we are confident that measures are in place to make sure we match up to the high standards set by ourselves and expected by the Care Quality Commission.”

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