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Care Failures 'Led To Death Of Surrey Pensioner'

A Coroner Believes The Neglect Of Care Services Contributed To The Death Of An 81-Year-Old Woman


The failure of Surrey County Council to care for local people contributed to the death on an 81-year-old woman from the area, a coroner has ruled.

Banstead resident Gloria Foster suffered from dementia and was used to being attended to four times a day by CareFirst24, but a police immigration raid led to the agency being shut and inadequate alternative measures being introduced for the care of patients.

Nine days after the closure in February 2013, Mrs Foster was found dying at home by a community nurse. She was taken to hospital, but passed away two weeks later.

The pensioner had been housebound and it was discovered that she had spent the nine-day period without food and medication as alternative care had not been provided by the council.

Mrs Foster was suffering from dehydration and starvation after being neglected by local authorities, despite Surrey County Council having been informed of the closure of the care agency.

Although she was ill before the agency was shut down, Surrey coroner Richard Travers stated: "The gross failure to provide Mrs Foster with the care she required during that period contributed to her death."

Her actual cause of death was deemed to be pulmonary thromboembolism and deep vein thrombosis - something that may have come about as a result of her being left unattended for nine days.

Speaking after the coroner's verdict was announced, a council spokesman said: "We would again like to say how sorry we are for our failure to help Gloria Foster get the support she needed.

"We should have done more and we completely accept that."

They added the authority has already made changes to its procedures in light of the tragic event and would continue to do so to help to prevent further failings in the future.

In addition, a report was carried out by Surrey County Council into Mrs Foster's death, which resulted in the dismissal of two employees and concluded a "serious mistake" had been made with regard to her care.

Expert Opinion
This is a truly shocking case, where the death of a vulnerable patient was contributed to by the neglect of care services. It indicates the devastating consequences a lack of communication between care providers can have, as well as the need for stringent procedures that ensure patients are not forgotten about or neglected.

“All too often we see cases where administrative errors and problems with paperwork put the health and safety of patients at risk but the gross failure here is difficult to comprehend. How can a care agency be closed down and for nobody to have regard for the people for whom that agency had responsibility? We welcome the swift action taken by Surrey County Council in ordering an investigation into Mrs Foster’s death, holding those responsible for the failings accountable and implementing changes to its procedures that we hope will prevent further incidents of this nature in the future.

"Our work on behalf of victims of care providers’ failings and neglect means we understand the huge difficulties and consequences that such issues can have, so it is important that the importance of tackling these problems is not underestimated.

"The safety and welfare of elderly members of society should always be a top priority and steps should be taken by care providers across the country to ensure the problems seen here are not repeated in the future."
Ian Christian, Partner

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