This day five years ago, 31 December 2007, was a difficult one for many reasons. I know that you won’t wish me to go into the detail of some of those reasons here.
We drove to London again and spent 4 hours at the Whittington Hospital dealing with various formalities. Most of the morning we spent in the PALS office (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) and talking on the phone with the Coroner’s Office and with one of the hospital doctors involved in your care. We grabbed a coffee and left at about 1 o’clock, having decided that we did not want to have to return to that part of London again in the near future.
That’s why we went – on the spur of the moment, unplanned and unannounced – to Lennox House to collect your belongings and avoid the need to go back there again. While you were still alive, just, I’d already asked the manager to send me a copy of everything on your records. On 20 December 2007 I received a copy of a document that Care UK calls the ‘Daily Record’ . It was only 9 pages so I asked the manager to copy and send everything else. It was the only document I’d seen then, but it gave a good indication of the very days when you must have been desperate for help, but no indication of any help being given.
We parked the car and were able to walk straight into Lennox House. So much for security. The manager was at reception, but she didn’t recognise us. She’d only met us once before, back in August 2007 when we went on a recce to Lennox House, just one of the care homes we looked at. There was no reason she should have recognised us. I introduced myself and explained that we’d come to collect your belongings. She said she’d just been speaking with your niece on the phone and she was planning to collect your things. It was easier for us to do it there and then, as that niece doesn’t drive. She also said that she was just writing a note to me, to accompany the paperwork I had asked for. I said I’d take it all with me and save her the trouble of posting it.
We went to your room, and packed your things; a few were missing, especially two rings. I asked for them – but I was assured you had not had any rings on your fingers when you arrived in Lennox House. It was an uncomfortable thing to hear, because we ‘d bought one of those rings, the ruby ring, for your 80th birthday. The sapphire and diamond ring had been on your finger for the last 60 years – more years than I care to remember. I’d noticed you were wearing both rings when we last saw you there, in November. Eventually, the staff managed to come up with one of the rings. The other one never surfaced.
We went down to reception. I was asked to go into the manager’s office, while “His Lordship” as you always called him took your things to the car, before returning. In that office, I was subjected to an inquisition. I was expected to go through every single line of the Daily Record and explain my concerns to the manager, as she wrote alterations on the pages. I thought I’d already done that on the phone earlier in December, but I still had to go through it all again. It became impossible for me, and I left the office in tears saying I just couldn’t go on with it. We had spent 4 hours at the Whittington Hospital, and I was exhausted.
I told the manager much of what we’d been through when you were in hospital, including being asked to explain how your diabetes was so out of control. I’d already spoken with the GP who hadn’t bothered to look at the meds you were taking, when she’d been called to the home, and who told me she was not aware that you were a diabetic. If she had been given a list of the meds you were taking it would have been obvious to her that you were a diabetic. If one of the nurses had told the GP you were a diabetic, she might have treated you differently. (She’d never met you before, as you were new to the care home and new to the surgery providing services to that care home.) Interestingly, it was only from that Daily Record that I discovered the GP had spoken with Lennox House (on 14 December 2007, while you were in hospital) before she returned my call to her that day.
The manager told me that there were no available glucose strips in that home, because the GP does not prescribe them. The manager told me that Care UK wouldn’t provide them either. To say that I was shocked, again, would be an understatement. I volunteered to pay for a year’s supply so that no other person with diabetes would ever arrive in A&E in a diabetic coma, like you did. With much of your bloods and tests ‘deranged’ .
I’m still trying to work out why those same words about glucose strips being unavailable are written in your care home notes, in the Daily Record for 7 December 2007. It’s such a strange few lines to have been added to someone’s personal care record. After all, you weren’t the only resident with diabetes, so it strikes me as a very strange addition to your records. Contemporaneous? I doubt it.
The manager said “we have taken steps to make sure this never happens again”.
That was too late for you. You only had one chance.
What I didn’t know until much later (namely July 2008) was that a ‘Complaints Form’ came into being on this day, five years ago. Its purpose was to indicate that ‘a meeting had been arranged’ to discuss my concerns, all of which appear to have been resolved that very day. I learned from CSCI (Commission for Social Care Inspection) that a ‘meeting had been arranged’ this day, 5 years ago, to discuss my concerns. It must be the first ‘meeting’ where people stood to ‘discuss’, rather than sat comfortably. CSCI asked for a copy of the minutes of that meeting. CSCI is now the CQC (Care Quality Commission). There were no minutes – because it was not a meeting. It was a chance encounter. (More about this all another time.)
I left Lennox House in tears. This day 5 years ago.
You deserved better care.
(To be continued)