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Fall at Benfleet care home may have contributed to pensioner's death
A CARE home was accused of altering records about a dementia sufferer’s treatment and offered her husband £1,000 to stop complaining, an inquest was told.
Muriel Giles, 75, died on June 1, 2012, after her health deteriorated following an operation on a fractured hip at Southend Hospital, Chelmsford Coroners’ Court heard.
Mrs Giles, was staying at Elizabeth House care home in Hadleigh when she fell from her bed in the care home on April 30.
It was her second unwitnessed fall at the home, but staff did not call a GP to check her and she was only taken to hospital on May 2, where the fracture was discovered, after her husband, Ronald Giles, of Thundersley Park Road, Benfleet, demanded she see a doctor.
Mr Giles raised a series of concerns in court, from his wife not being fed properly to conflicting accounts of the incident, including the time of the fall being subsequently changed on a care home record sheet from 8.05am to 8.05pm.
He said: “The treatment she received made me keep a diary for some days before the end. She always needed changing and was never fed properly.
Missed fracture: Muriel Giles
There was a lack of staff.”
He said a number of records about the incident conflicted with each other and a note was added on her file that she had been “unstable” two days after her operation.
He added: “At one stage they even offered me £1,000 to stop the complaint.”
Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray stopped him revealing more about the alleged offer. After the hearing, care home owner Runwood Homes denied making any such offer.
Dr Carlos Volkmar-Sierra, who saw Mrs Giles on May 1, told the court staff had not made him aware she had fallen.
Despite filling out a form requesting an urgent X-ray, he told the court he also missed the fracture.
He did not call for an ambulance to take her to A&E and suggested Mr Giles drive her there the following morning.
Unseen falls: Elizabeth House
She arrived at hospital on May 2 and the fractured hip was discovered and operated on.
Her health dramatically deteriorated before she died.
Former Southend coroner Peter Dean, who initially dealt with the case, did not order a post mortem.
Dr Kokulo Waiwaiku of the High Road Family Doctors, in High Road, Benfleet, registered the cause of death as dementia contributed to by a fractured hip.
Coroner Mrs Caroline Beasley- Murray recorded a verdict of natural causes, but added the fracture hip may have contributed.
She added: “Lines of communication between Mr Giles and Elizabeth House became somewhat fraught.
Natural causes: Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray
Elizabeth House could have displayed more openness in its dealing with Mr Giles who continually got frustrated about getting information from the care home.”
Mr Giles said he was notified of the fall on April 30 and at the care home at 2pm that day was shown an accident report stating she fell in the morning.
He said: “I have been given no sensible account as to why the form was altered from morning to evening and it does not appear to make any sense.”
Vivian Laurent from Runwood Homes, who became manager of Elizabeth House on April 30 2012, admitted amending the time of the incident on a care home record from 8.05 to 20.05, but maintained it was only because it had been filled out incorrectly not in the form of the 24- hour clock.
He said the firm had investigated the incident and since brought in new procedures and more staff to supervise at-risk patients.
After the hearing, a spokesman for Runwood Homes, said care staff faced a difficult job, but he was confident they had acted appropriately, and elderly patients sometimes unfortunately fell in care homes. He denied a £1,000 offer was made to Mr Giles.
Critical: Ruth Hemmingway
A lawyer has criticised the coroner over her verdict following an inquest into the death of another Elizabeth House patient whose fractured hip went unnoticed.
Earlier this month, the Echo revealed how staff at Elizabeth House failed to send frail Colin Baker, 75, from Rayleigh, to hospital after he suffered two falls, fracturing his hip.
He was sent to Southend Hospital three days after the second fall, on February 18, 2012 after relatives demanded it.
The hospital discovered the fracture and a string of other problems, including bedsores, oral thrush, dehydration and his being underweight.
He remained bed-bound following an operation and died on March 28.
Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a natural causes verdict as the cause of death which was recorded as pneumonia, chronic emphysema and heart problems.
Admitted: Southend Hospital
Pathologist Konrad Wolfe said being bedbound could have led to the pneumonia setting in, but Ruth Hemingway, solicitor at BTMK Solicitors, Southend, which acts for Mr Baker’s family, said Mrs Beasley- Murray failed to explore this further.
She said: “My client is distressed the coroner did not recognise this contributed to his death.
“It is shocking the staff did not seek proper medical attention after Mr Baker’s falls, or realise his hip was fractured.”
After the fall on February 16, Mr Baker was lying on the floor for almost two hours as he could not reach a bed alarm. After the subsequent fall, care staff called paramedics when the family noticed he was yellow and struggling for breath.