Inquest Concludes Neglect Contributed To Death Of Dementia Patient Who Escaped From Care Home

Medical Law Experts Say It Is Important That Lessons Are Learned

29.01.2014

The heartbroken daughter of a former Birmingham City footballer, who died instantly when he was struck by a train after escaping from his care home, says she can finally come to terms with her loss after an inquest concluded today (29 January).

Justine Bostock, has spoken out for the first time about her dad John Nicholls’ death in February 2011 following the inquest which saw Birmingham Coroner Louise Hunt conclude that his death was contributed to by neglect.

Concluding the inquest, Louise Hunt said that ‘there was insufficient communication and assessment of his needs resulting in inadequate staffing levels and placement.’

The three-day inquest heard that the 76-year-old, who suffered from vascular dementia, made previous escape attempts during his short stay at Heartlands Care Home in Birmingham. This prompted the Care Home to request further funding from senior management within the Home and from Social Services, within Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, for more staff to provide vital 24-hour supervision for Mr Nicholls.

However both the Home and Social Services declined the request for additional funding for one on one supervision and individual carers at the Care Home had to continue to try and supervise Mr Nicholls as best they could. He had been a resident at Heartlands for just five days when he escaped through a fire door which was not alarmed and died instantly after being struck by a train at Marston Green Station.

Specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who represented Justine at the inquest will now look to secure justice following the Coroner’s narrative conclusion that Mr Nicholls’ death was contributed to by neglect. 

The inquest heard that during his short stay at Heartlands Care Home, which is now under new ownership and management, Mr Nicholls escaped several times. On one occasion, on 23 February 2011, Mr Nicholls escaped the Care Home and was found to have returned to his own home, where he had lived for 40 years.

Justine, Mr Nicholls’ daughter, said: “I am pleased with the outcome of the inquest and believe that no stone has been left unturned to find out how my dad died. I feel that I have been given the answers I was looking for which gives me peace of mind that my dad’s death was investigated thoroughly.

“I hope that improvements will be made to prevent anyone else losing a loved one in a similar way.

“The last few years have been heartbreaking for me as I have had to come to terms with losing Dad. When he was admitted to Heartlands Care Home I believed he would be in the safest place and that the Home would have the resources to give him the best care possible.

“I would like to thank my legal team at Irwin Mitchell for all their help and support throughout the past few years, without them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve justice for my dad or find the answers I have been searching for all these years.”

Mr Nicholls played for Birmingham City reserves in the late 1940 to early 1950s. He served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as Corporal in Korea and Egypt from 1952 to 1954 and left behind two daughters and five great-grandchildren.

If lost a loved one due to fatal negligence, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.