Maypole Nursing Home inquest to go ahead by June 2009
After a five year battle, the family of a pensioner who died at Birmingham's notorious Maypole Nursing Home, are within months of an inquest into their father's death after they succeeded in overturning a Coroner's decision not to hold a hearing.
Earlier this year Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, ordered Birmingham Coroner Aidan Cotter to open an inquest into the death of 77 year old Leslie Vines, who died just 10 days after being admitted to the nursing home in 2002.
The decision follows a landmark hearing at the High Court in London in October 2007 which quashed Mr Cotter's original decision not to hold an inquest and referred the matter to the Secretary of State.
Now Jack Straw has supported the family's calls for a proper investigation into Mr Vines death by invoking powers under Section 15(2) of the Corners Act 1988, to force the coroner to hold an inquest.
The Birmingham Coroner has now held two preliminary hearings and ordered the gathering of hundreds of pages of evidence. It is thought that over thirty witnesses will be called to give evidence at the seven day hearing before a jury.
Mr Vines, formerly of Cranmore Road in Shirley, Solihull, died on 7th September 2002. At the time, his cause of death was recorded as bronchial pneumonia and neither a post mortem nor an inquest was held.
Throughout 2002 27 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, took the rare decision to launch the Judicial Review a legal challenge to the coroner's original decision not to hold an inquest - on behalf of Mr Vines's daughter, Hazel Bicknell, following investigations into 16 other suspicious deaths of elderly residents.
These investigations included a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing held in January 2007, which struck off the two doctors who owned the nursing home and an ongoing Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing into the conduct of three nurses who face allegations of professional misconduct.
Victoria Blankstone, from Irwin Mitchell, who has represented the Bicknell family in their legal fight, said: We now hope the hearing will take place by June 2009. There is still a lot of work to be done but Hazel and her family are relieved that after five long years of fighting for justice, this hearing will finally take place.
"Launching a judicial is not a decision to be taken lightly but we felt that there were too many unanswered questions regarding Mr Vines's death which demanded a formal investigation. Now we may finally learn more about the circumstances which led to his sudden death at the Maypole Nursing Home."
Mrs Bicknell commented: "We always said we'd never give up until we had an inquest into Dad's death. Although I'm extremely pleased with the outcome, I'm annoyed that it has taken the Secretary of State's involvement to force the coroner's hand.
"I've never believed the homes explanation of Dad's death. I know when he was transferred from Heartlands Hospital doctors described him as being as strong as a 21 year old but within 48 hours of going into the Maypole he was reduced to a shuffling wreck. I believe that my father did not die from natural causes but as a result of neglect and the way he was treated at the Maypole."