Born out of frustration, sadness and despair while trying to achieve a decent standard of care for a relative.
After watching Panorama’s Britain’s Homecare Scandal on TV, and seeing several examples of sub-standard home care being delivered to very vulnerable elderly people – in Scotland, in the North of England and in the South of England – I felt the time had come for me to voice my own frustrations about the way in which we are not showing that we care.
The people featured in that programme were either desperately in need of care, or were workers incapable of delivering decent care. Elderly people in their own homes were being abused by the home care agencies charged with providing care to them. The support workers were possibly also being exploited and abused by the home care agencies employing them.
The 3 home care agencies mentioned in the programme are not beginners in this field of work, nor are they necessarily small enterprises. In fact, one of the providers is almost trying to turn itself into a mini-NHS, a mini-private-NHS, with contracts to supply care services to many local authorities – so the standards of that particular agency deserve to come under scrutiny now, before it gets any bigger and before it carries any more influence in the world of care.
We must find a way to improve the standard of Care in the UK.
Time moved on, and we worked our way through from independent living, to extra-care sheltered housing, and then via a mental health assessment unit to residential care.
My gentle, mature but young at heart relative with vascular dementia encountered enormously sub-standard care in the so-called ‘care’ home that we, her family, decided would be suitable to meet her needs. How wrong we were. But we could not have known that then, when we agreed to the transfer from mental health/dementia assessment unit to ‘care’ home. Within days of her arrival in the ‘care’ home, she was admitted to A&E in a diabetic coma. She died three weeks later, having not regained consciousness for more than moments.
In the intervening years, since her death, I have worked my rear end off trying to establish all the reasons for the unexplained demolition of a genuinely lovely person. All she needed was care. All she received was neglect, abuse, and sub-standard care.
The investigations into my relative’s neglect showed – beyond any shadow of any doubt – that the care home was not fit for purpose, other than on the paper-documentation that allowed the ‘care’ home to open and receive vulnerable elderly residents with dementia. There were no systems in place to provide for suitable selection of staff, for training of the staff, for the monitoring of the staff, for the observation of sensible record-keeping, for updating of knowledge and awareness of diabetes, of dementia, of swallowing difficulties, or even of what to do in an emergency. There were many other areas of neglect, but enough for now about those.
The first investigation was conducted ‘behind closed doors’ so that even family were excluded from it, apart from our initial involvement with the person conducting the investigation and producing the report. Well, our relative was dead by the time the investigation began, so could no longer be protected. The fact that we wanted to know what the heck had gone wrong never entered their ‘caring’. We were seen as obstacles in the path of their painting-over-the-cracks, the proverbial whitewash.
If I achieve nothing more before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I promise to have unearthed before the time of my departure more than a few of the worms who contributed nothing other than their own wormlike-properties all under the banner of ‘care’. I promise also to do all I can to raise the standards of care currently being made available in some parts of the UK to people who are at their most vulnerable.
Updated to include a synopsis of more recent events. In August 2008, a few months after my relative died, I first contacted the NMC, and then referred to the NMC the nurses involved in the sub-standard care delivered to my relative. I also referred the GP involved to the GMC, at roughly the same time.
In February 2012, over 4 years after the death of my relative, the hearings began at the NMC. In April 2013, another year had passed, and those hearings concluded. It was during the NMC hearings that I learned more than had come my way in the intervening years, some of it genuinely shocking. Two of the nurses were struck off by the NMC; two more nurses were given a 3-year caution order and a 2-year caution order respectively. Now that those hearings are all behind us, I can tell more of what is already in the public domain, as it all featured at the NMC hearings that were open to the public.
One promise I made to myself and my family is that everything I write in this Blog will be the truth. Honest – open – transparent.