An analysis conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at the request of the Guardian newspaper suggests that more than 1,000 care home residents died after suffering malnutrition, dehydration or bedsores: conditions that in most cases should be entirely preventable.
The results of the ONS research published by the Guardian were based on an analysis of death certificates where one of those three conditions was mentioned as either the underlying cause of death or a contributory factor. It is true that the ONS data may not provide a complete picture. There are many reasons why residents could be recorded as malnourished, such as those who due to illness or other chronic problems could not eat properly or absorb nutrients.
Possible that poor care may have been a factor in some deaths
Nonetheless, the figures showed that from 2013 to 2017 malnutrition was recorded as a contributory factor on death certificates in 226 cases. In that same period, dehydration was similarly recorded in 398 deaths while bedsores were cited as a significant factor in death 839 times. While the data did not provide enough information to link the deaths to poor care, the Guardian report says the ONS acknowledged that ‘it is possible that poor care may have been a factor in some of the deaths.’
Shagufta Aziz, a legal executive in Shoosmiths medical negligence team who deals with care home claims commented:
‘Many care home residents are elderly and suffering from dementia or already coping with other chronic health problems. They are susceptible to life-threatening, but easily preventable, conditions such as pressure ulcers and may have problems with eating or drinking. It is vital that staff levels are adequate and that they get the right training to provide the high standards of care these vulnerable people need.’
Many at risk from pressure sores
That is reflected in a case recently concluded by Shoosmiths on behalf of a client whose father had dementia and whilst in hospital after a fall was transferred to a care home where staff were well aware of the fact that he was at an increased risk of developing pressure sores.
He was provided with a pressure mattress to alleviate that problem, however, when he was moved to a different floor he became distressed and anxious, resulting in him rubbing his heels on the mattress leading to severe pressure sores. Significantly, the pressure mattress, which could have helped alleviate his injuries, was not transferred with him. His condition deteriorated so markedly that he was admitted to Milton Keynes Hospital where he died.
His daughter approached Sarah Cunliffe, a solicitor who specialises in care home abuse and neglect cases within Shoosmiths. Sarah obtained expert medical evidence which confirmed that, had the mattress been used at the time of the transfer, the bedsores would not have been as severe and would have healed sooner.
‘There are frankly too many cases where the allegation of failure to provide basic care has proved to be correct. Given their vulnerability, it should be obvious to those running these care establishments that residents are entirely dependent on staff to ensure they drink fluids, are properly fed and have their pressure areas looked after. The fact that the ONS data and my client’s experience with her late father suggest this is obviously not happening in many cases is very concerning.’