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Failings in care results in death of elderly resident

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On 30 January 2015 Elsie Clarke, then aged 93, was admitted to Hurst Hall care home following a hospital admission to treat pneumonia. Aside from that particular illness, Elsie was a sprightly and remarkably alert old lady who had been fit and well, living independently.

The plan was that her two-week stay at the care home would aid her recovery so that she could return home and continue to look after herself as she had always done.

Elsie died just nine days after being admitted into the home.

Her son, Peter Clarke, visited his mother on a regular basis and on 9 February 2015, Peter and his wife visited Hurst Hall and were happy that Elsie looked comfortable and well. Around 2.00 pm on 10 February 2015, Mr Clarke visited again. His mother was asleep in a chair in the conservatory when he arrived.

Failure to call a doctor

Peter did not like what he saw. His mother’s complexion was pale and her breathing was rapid and shallow. When Elsie did awaken her voice was weak and she was finding it difficult to talk. Peter spoke to staff, requesting that they call the doctor for his mum and was assured by the carers that they would do so that same afternoon. Mr Clarke spent a short time with his mother before leaving to return to home.

Peter was so concerned though that he returned to the care home on the same day at around 5.30 p.m. He found his mother sitting at the dining table alone in a very poor state. Her condition had deteriorated dramatically since he last saw her three hours previously. Mr Clarke asked staff what the doctor had said, but was told a doctor had not been called as promised.

Insensitive treatment of relatives

Peter was assured that a doctor (by this time it would have to be the out of hours service) would be called after the medication round had been completed later that evening. He returned home again, but at approximately 7.20 pm on 10 February 2015 the family received a telephone call from a fraught care worker saying that Elsie had stopped breathing.

Mr and Mrs Clarke rushed to the care home and as they were walking up the main pathway to the premises, they were met by two members of staff who offered their condolences. That was precisely how Peter Clarke first learned his mother had died.

Going through the ordeal of an inquest alone

The inquest into his mother’s death proved harrowing for Peter since he had to face that ordeal, discussing details of how his mother died, alone. He admits it may have been a less stressful experience if he had representation at inquest.

Experts in care home abuse and neglect cases

Following the inquest, Peter still had concerns and many unanswered questions about his mother’s care and her death. He turned to Sarah Cunliffe at Access Legal Solicitors, who specialises in cases of care home abuse and neglect.

Sarah Cunliffe said:

‘Peter contacted us within days of the inquest, obviously very upset. Had he come to us earlier, we would of course offered him representation at the inquest, but that was done. What we could do was try to move on with the case and get Peter answers to the questions he felt remained and give him some sense of closure.’

Access Legal Solicitors have instructed the same medical expert who gave evidence at the inquest in the hope that he will confirm that, had the care home taken action earlier, the outcome would have been very different. If on receipt of that report, the matter still cannot be resolved, Access Legal Solicitors will leave no stone unturned and will commence court proceedings.

Peter has nothing but praise for Access Legal Solicitors and Sarah Cunliffe in particular:

‘I think she has been a great support. I can phone her up at any time with even niggling little questions and she explains things to me. I am very happy with the way everything is progressing at the moment.’

Sarah Cunliffe concludes:

‘Peter’s motivation here, like many of my clients, is not compensation – compensation in these cases is never huge and of course it won’t bring back the loved one. What Peter wants - what we’re working tirelessly with him to achieve - is to get answers to his questions and to make sure that this doesn’t happen to somebody else’s loved one.’

Shortly after proceedings were issued the defendants, faced with the prospect of costly court case, agreed to settle the claim which Peter accepted to conclude the litigation. However he continues to raise awareness of the circumstances of this and similar tragedies in elderly care in the hope that others might be spared the anger and grief he still feels.

How we can help

If you suspect that an elderly or vulnerable relative or friend has suffered harm as a consequence of abuse or neglect in a care home or nursing home our specialist teams here at Access Legal Solicitors can offer advice and assistance.

Call us on 03700 868 686 for a free initial consultation. Our team have experience in this type of claim and will be glad to discuss the options that are available to you.

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