Alleged Neglect in Care Home resulting in Death
At Pearson, our Care Home Negligence Solicitors deal with a wide variety of compensation claims and this case looks at a tragic case of alleged care home neglect where our client’s mother died after a series of falls.
Falls in Care Home
Mrs Audrey Needham was 88 at the time of her death and had been living at a care home for just over two months. She had several falls at her own home and went into a nursing home. Whilst in the nursing home, she should have been noted as being at serious risk of falls which could have prevented the number of subsequent accidents and injuries that she sustained in the care home.
Mrs Needham was seen at the time of admission by the care home manager, not a registered nurse and as such, the fall risk assessment of ‘medium’ was incorrect. She should have been noted as having a ‘high’ risk of falls and appropriate risk prevention actions and a suitable care plan could then have been implemented.
These checks should have included:
- Nightly checks and well-being checks during the day
- A call bell accessible to the resident
- Sensor mats on the bed or chair and appropriate equipment
- A review of medication to see if it is linked to falls
Spinal Cord Injury
Whilst a resident at the care home, Mrs Needham fell on her way to the bathroom and once whilst in the bathroom. She had several falls in her bedroom, causing her to cut herself and, in the last fall, sustaining severe facial bruising, a bloodshot eye and grazes to her back.
An ambulance was called, which took some hours to arrive. Mrs Needham was moved by members of staff from the floor to a chair and then into bed. Mrs Needham was not taken to the hospital that night but had to wait until the daytime when she was admitted to the Royal Oldham Hospital, complaining of neck pain and stiffness, as well as respiratory issues.
A CT scan of her neck indicated she had suffered a broken neck - an upper odontoid fracture, which is essentially a cervical spinal cord injury affecting the uppermost region of the spinal cord.
A neurosurgeon stated this was a serious injury with significant risk to the patient’s life. Sadly, Mrs Needham passed away less than four days later after the last fall.
“In this case, we asserted that the care home in question fell below the accepted standard, and as such, they were in breach of its duty of care to our client’s mother,” said Mike Talbot, Head of Personal Injury & Care Home Claims.
“Expert opinion obtained by us states that her assessments were incorrect and not updated or reviewed after several falls in the home.”
As part of the investigations, it was revealed that no incident forms were filled in for some of Mrs Needham’s falls and her care notes were insubstantial.
“We submitted that the lack of recording of Mrs Needham’s falls is poor record keeping and a breach of duty of care, as daily notes and an incident form for each fall is the accepted standard,” said Mr Talbot.
Head Injury in Care Homes
In addition, when a patient sustains a head injury, they must not be moved. At the time of her falls, on one occasion, Mrs Needham was moved into bed and given a cup of tea. On another occasion, there was a lack of prompt post fall observations.
“The underassessment of the falls risk meant she was not provided with the appropriate care and supervision to prevent the six falls sustained…and care home staff did not have the clinical knowledge to safely and adequately care for her needs, nor fulfil the criteria from the CQC Fundamental Standards,” said Mike Talbot.
A settlement of £10,000 for damages was achieved without an admission of liability. This was assessed on the four days and nights of avoidable pain, suffering and loss of amenity, as well as funeral expenses, and the care and assistance for the period Mrs Needham was in the hospital and based on judge’s guidelines and previously reported cases.
Speaking after the case, her son, Mr Stuart Needham, said:
“Mr Talbot at Pearson Solicitors handled our case with great empathy and understanding and guided us through the legal framework and potential outcomes with great professionalism and efficiency.
He has had to guide us within the parameters of what courts have previously ruled in their decisions of settlement figures, which relate primarily to the amount of time a person suffers as opposed to the ultimate sacrifice of their death.”
How can we help
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Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.