High Court Challenge To Coroner's Decision Not To Hold Inquest Into Nursing Home Deaths

17.10.2007

The family of a man, who died just ten days after being admitted to a nursing home, will go to the High Court in London on Friday 19 October 2007 to challenge a Coroner's decision not to hold an inquest into their father's death. If successful the inquests into the deaths of up to 16 other residents of the home may also take place.

Mrs Hazel Bicknell's father, 77 year old Leslie Vines, formerly of Cranmore Road in Shirley, Solihull died on 7th September 2002 in the Maypole Nursing Home. At the time, his cause of death was recorded as bronchial pneumonia and neither a post mortem nor an inquest was held.

Throughout 2002 28 residents, including Mr Vines, died at the Birmingham based Maypole Nursing Home. This compares to a total of 8 deaths during the previous year, in a home with a capacity for 36 beds in total.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, has taken the rare decision to launch a Judicial Review on behalf of the Bicknell family in light of recent investigations into 16 other suspicious deaths of elderly residents.

This includes the findings of the GMC's Fitness to Practice Panel, held in January this year, which struck off the two doctors who owned the nursing home, Dr Hari Gopal and his wife, Dr Pratury Lakshmi, after finding that in their roles as both co-proprietor and general practitioner of the nursing home their actions were inappropriate, irresponsible and inadequate and were not in the best interests of the patients or the residents of the home.

Both doctors were struck off the Medical Register on the basis of serious professional misconduct.

Jonathan Peacock, Partner with law firm Irwin Mitchell explained: "We were very disappointed by the Coroner's judgment not to hold an inquest and pleased to have this opportunity in the High Court to challenge it. We will be arguing that his decision was irrational given the evidence of malpractice in the Maypole Nursing Home and the findings of the GMC hearing and that it was a breach of Human Rights for Mr Vines's death not to be fully investigated

"The conditions in which vulnerable residents at the Maypole lived and, in many cases, died were simply unacceptable.

Mr Vines' daughter, Hazel Bicknell, said: "It's been five years since my Father's death and we are desperate to find out what really happened to him at the Maypole Nursing Home, especially now we know the doctors who owned and managed the care home have been found guilty of failings.

"We hope that the judicial review will enable us finally have an inquest into my father's death and will take us closer to finding out the truth about how and why he died."

Despite suffering from both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, Mr Vines was considered physically fit and well when he was transferred to the Maypole Nursing Home in Shirley for full time nursing care. Mr Vines spent just 10 days at the home before his unexpected death on 7th September 2002.

80% of the death certificates written by the two doctors who owned the Maypole - Dr Hari Gopal and his wife, Dr Pratury Lakshmi gave bronchopneumonia as a cause of death.