Family wins legal battle after death of Eastwood mum who was neglected in care home
A family are calling for lessons to be learned after winning their four-year legal battle following the death of a care home resident with dementia in Giltbrook.
Christine Vaughan, from near Eastwood, was neglected and, in the days before her death, developed an acute kidney infection, an inquest concluded.
Before the mum-of-two’s death in Giltbrook Care Home, her family had complained to the home about Christine’s care and how she was losing a lot of weight.
After Christine died aged 73 in March 2017, her relatives, including husband Alvin, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help secure them answers.
In December 2019, an inquest jury concluded Christine’s death amounted to neglect.
Following a separate safeguarding investigation, Nottinghamshire County Council temporarily suspended the home’s contract to operate.
Police also launched a criminal investigation into Christine’s death but it was ruled no further action be taken.
Christine’s family brought a separate civil case against Giltbrook Care Homes Ltd, which runs the home where Christine was a resident.
After the company failed to respond, the case was brought before the county court.
When the company again did not respond to legal submissions the court entered judgment against Giltbrook Care Homes Ltd, ruling it was responsible for Christine’s death.
The company has now agreed an out of court settlement with the family.
Christine’s son Michael said: “Mum was the most wonderful, caring and loving mum you could ever wish for.
"She doted on her family and was never happier than when spending time with us.
“Dementia is a dreadful disease. It was hard enough to see how mum wasn’t the same person because of her condition without having to then try and contend with the poor care she was receiving.
“All the way through this we feel that we’ve had to fight the care home operator for answers and to acknowledge our concerns.
“The last four years and attempting to come to terms with what happened to her has been hard enough.
“We felt guilty that we were unable to get mum out of the home so she could receive the best possible care she deserved.
"However, that guilt turned to anger and frustration at how our family was being treated.
“Mum wasn’t a statistic on a spreadsheet but a loyal and hardworking person who died because she wasn’t cared for with the dignity she deserved.
"We know nothing can bring her back but we feel the care home company should have treated us with respect and not just ignored us thinking we would go away.
“We now just hope that what happened to mum doesn’t happen to others.”
Christine became a resident of Giltbrook Care Home in March 2016 after suffering extensive fractures in a fall at home near Eastwood.
In early 2017 Michael became concerned about the health of his mum who suffered from water infections.
He had noted that she had lost weight and was regularly wet, wearing soaked incontinence pads.
During a visit to Christine on Mother’s Day 2017 her family found Christine “dirty, dishevelled and hanging out of bed," the inquest was told.
She died two days later on 28 March, 2017, as a result of the kidney infection pyelonephritis and cystitis.
Following Christine’s death Nottinghamshire County Council launched a safeguarding investigation following concerns by the family and a whistle-blower who worked at the home.
The investigation found that nutrition and fluid charts were often inconsistently completed.
In March 2017, a number of daily charts were missing, with charts only fully completed on four days that month. No evidence was found that Christine had been fed on March 22.
Tania Harrison, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Christine’s family, said: “Christine was a much-loved wife and mum with Alvin visiting her every day when she was a resident at the care home.
“During regular visits the family firmly believe they saw Christine’s condition deteriorate before them. However, despite raising concerns nothing was done to address these.
“For many months after the inquest and despite its findings, the care home company failed to work with the family to resolve their concerns.
"This conduct just added to the hurt and distress Alvin and the rest of the family have had to endure.
“While nothing can ever make up for their loss we’re pleased to have resolved this case and have been able to secure the answers Christine’s family deserved, providing them with some form of closure.
“People in care homes are some of society’s most vulnerable people and it’s now vital that lessons are learned to improve patient care.”
Regulator the Care Quality Commission rated Giltbrook Care Home as inadequate following an inspection in April 2017.
The CQC has since rated the home as good, according to the inspection report published in November 2019.
A spokesperson for the care home said: "Since this historic incident the home has made consistent improvements to the service it provides.
"We have thoroughly reflected on what happened, and significantly changed and improved the way we work.
"We have since brought in new management, the contracts with the local authority have been fully reinstated and our CQC rating has improved to an overall GOOD rating.
"We have since won an award for Excellent Practice and have worked extremely hard to improve the care that we provide, especially during the COVID pandemic, in order to keep our residents safe, as have many care homes throughout the country."