Inquest Into Deaths Of Orchid View Care Home Residents Concludes

Medical Law Experts Call For Urgent Action To Prevent Ageing Population Crisis

18.10.2013

Medical law experts representing the devastated families of seven residents who died under the care of a Sussex nursing home, have called for urgent action to enforce stricter regulations in the industry to prevent the same ‘gross’ failings from happening again.

The call comes after a Coroner today (18 October) said Orchid View Care Home had ‘institutionalised abuse from a very early stage’. It follows a five-week inquest at the County Hall North in Horsham into the deaths of 19 former residents who died between 2010 and the start of 2012.

The inquest heard from witnesses who described scenes of patients being underfed and locked in their rooms, unsafe staffing levels and medical records being changed to cover up medication errors at the Copthorne home, which was run by Southern Cross and closed down in October 2011. It reopened under a new name and management in February 2012.

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell represent the families of Jean Halfpenny, Jean Leatherbarrow, Doris Fielding, Enid Trodden, Bertram Jerome, Wilfred Gardner and John Holmes.

Speaking after the verdict, Partner and medical law expert Ian Christian at Irwin Mitchell, said:

"We have been shocked and appalled by the gross failings at Orchid View. Despite charging huge sums of money, Southern Cross failed to create a safe supervision and management structure which led to multiple failures in care. Numerous managers and nurses let down those elderly people for whom they were responsible and this had negative consequences for at least 19 of its residents.

"We will not rest until we have uncovered exactly how this was able to happen and we are confident the appropriate steps have been taken to stop this happening again.

"These were vulnerable people, many of whom used their life savings, or had their families pay money, so they would be cared for in the later stages of their life. They ought to have been in safe hands and provided with a standard of care which gave them dignity. Sadly, this could not have been further from the truth.

"How this could happen in a 21st century care home beggars belief, but it did, and the authorities such as the Care Quality Commission and Government need to consider why this was the case and make vast improvements to the industry to ensure negligence on such a large scale can never, ever happen again.

"The government has made recent announcements about ways to tackle problem with the care industry, but we are yet to see action and that must be the focus.”

Mr Christian added: "Before it closed down, Southern Cross owned 752 care homes across the UK. The evidence revealed in this inquest is deeply concerning as it shows signs of profits being put before the wellbeing of residents. Safety should have been the top priority of any organisation involved in caring for others.

"Questions need to be asked about whether the private care route is a safe, appropriate way of caring for our aging population, which is only going to continue growing.

"We believe urgent action is needed to enforce stricter regulation on those who take responsibility for caring for the elderly and vulnerable. The management void within Southern Cross was shocking and how that wasn’t picked up by those charged with safeguarding the residents of Orchid View is something that cannot be allowed to happen again.

"Homes cannot be allowed to get to crisis point and for lives to be lost because of failings. This inquest needs to prompt an improvement in accountability to show others in the profession that poor care and taking away people’s dignity will not be tolerated by our society.

"Nothing can bring back loved ones to the families we represent, and whilst the details of the failings that have been uncovered have been very upsetting, the thoroughness of the inquest has provided them with much-needed answers and we will continue to support them in seeking justice for their devastating loss.

"We welcome the introduction of a serious case review, however, if we feel the remit of this does not go far enough in providing families who lost loved ones with answers about how such horrific abuse could go on for so long, we will not hesitate to call for a full, independent public inquiry."

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Medical Negligence Claims.