As part of our series on care homes in central Lancashire, reporter LAURA WILD takes a look at the struggle of one family whose father died after falling while in the care of a failing home
A distraught son says he feels unable to grieve for his late father until care home bosses give him answers over his dad’s treatment.
Christopher Walne’s father Kenneth went for a week’s stay at Thistleton Lodge in December 2012 after a spell in hospital with pneumonia.
He was staying at the care home in Kirkham for just one week while a dining room at his home in Thornton Cleveleys was being converted into a bedroom.
But on the fourth night at the home on December 1, 2012, Kenneth, a former school teacher, had a fall and broke his hip.
He had to undergo emergency surgery and in 2012 spent his last Christmas at home with his family. His health deteriorated rapidly and he died in February 2013.
The family of Kenneth allege that Thistleton Lodge failed in its duty of care and they are still waiting for answers 17 months after he had a fall at the home.
When Kenneth went into the home, it had a glowing CQC report meeting all essential standards.
Months later, it was failing in more than half the inspection areas and since then has been ordered to take enforcement action.
The family wants to know exactly what happened to the 89-year-old on that night. They claim there is:
•Discrepancy over the time of the fall;
•Lack of information about the fall;
•Three different versions of events;
The family also claims:
• Kenneth was still up and dressed at 11.30pm;
• Care staff moved Kenneth when he had a suspected broken hip;
• Thistleton Lodge said Kenneth was watching snooker at the time of the fall, when it wasn’t on;
• No risk assessment was carried out in planning of delivery and care to suit Kenneth’s needs and reduce risk;
• Thistleton Lodge concluded Kenneth had dementia, when he did not.
The Walne family has complained to Lancashire County Council and handed a file to the Local Government Ombudsman. They claim the county council:
• Sent an untrained and unqualified member of staff into investigate;
• Lost minutes of a meeting for seven months;
• Didn’t send a department manager to a meeting about the complaints;
• Does not agree with the family when the first complain was made so the investigation is currently on hold;
• Failed to investigate key areas;
• Failed to follow process and procedures.
Mr Walne, 53, said hesitancy from the home when Kenneth had the fall led him to be suspicious. Since then, different accounts of what happened on that night have been told to the family.
He says they were told Kenneth had been walking with his zimmer frame, or fell from a chair and or fell from a sofa.
“We want to know exactly what happened,” he said, “And how long he was there?
“They need to come back to us and tell us the truth - they need to tell us that dad was still dressed and waiting to go to bed.”
In the months since the fall, Mr Walne has been trying to get to the bottom of what time his dad fell, how he fell, how long he had been lying on the floor and why he was still up late at night.
He also wants to know why and how standards at the home fell so quickly and is calling for urgent answers from Lancashire County Council into their handling of the investigation.
Mr Walne has now learned the county council ruled there was no safeguarding issue - but he is now appealing.
Kenneth was married to Kathleen, 84, for 63 years and they had three children. Kathleen has since passed away.
Mr Walne said: “Although Dad was 89 he was a very resilient man, he was very clever, he was a teacher, he taught maths and physics, he was in the RAF. He was elderly but he was resilient.
“After that fall and the surgery, the deterioration was fast.
“There has been many different versions about what happened.
“What distressed me was I turned to LCC, I really hoped for a proactive response and I wanted someone to rely on but it has just become more and more distressing and more and more upsetting.
“I am numb, I haven’t felt emotion for a long time. I don’t feel angry, I don’t feel bitter, I just feel tired.
“I have compiled a bundle of evidence which is robust and in that time Thistleton Lodge and Lancashire County Council has not delivered.
“I can’t grieve. When I take my dog for a walk I sob, when I visit dad’s grave I sob, there’s no closure, there’s no answers for dad.
“And what hurts me is not knowing how long he was lying there for.
“I would like to meet with the regional director of the CQC and put questions to him. How did it get 100 per cent audits and then go to failing four out of six areas?”
In a CQC inspection report published about the home in October 2013, inspectors said action needed to be taken over the care and welfare of people who use the services, with particular mention about falls.
Inspectors noted: “For example, one person had recently suffered falls. These had been recorded in the person’s daily notes and the accident log. They had not, however, been used to inform the risk assessment relating to this person’s risk of falls, or their written plan of care.
“We found similar cases in other people’s records where their needs had changed with regard to continence and medication. The associated risk assessments and care plans had not been reviewed and update to take account of the changes.”
This report was published months after Kenneth’s fall and Mr Walne said he felt like lessons had not been learnt.
The home was inspected again in March this year and was ordered to take action over the way it handles medicines. It was re-inspected this month and found to be compliant, according to a draft report. This has not yet been published on the CQC website.
Sally Gregory on behalf of Thistleton Lodge said: “Mr Walne was admitted to Thistleton Lodge on November 26, 2012, following pre-admission assessment.
“Prior to admission, information is gathered and a personalised care plan is collated, along with risk assessment, medical history, life history, preferred routines and individual preferences.
“An investigation has been taking place since the incident and the local authority are in receipt of all documentary evidence relating to:
•The time of the fall and the time that it was documented;
•The circumstances of the fall;
•Reference to Care Quality Commission, Outcome 2 (Regulation 18) ‘Consent to Care and treatment’ whereby, care givers are required to exercise autonomy and choice to all users of the service.
“Mr Walne did not present with any immediate symptoms of hip fracture; when Mr Walne did begin to express pain, medical advice was immediately sought.
“A member of care staff has provided a statement alleging that on chatting to Mr Walne earlier on that evening, she had mentioned that the snooker was on ‘later’ and Mr Walne expressed an interest in watching it.
“The local authority are in possession of the following risk assessments: Falls, Moving & handling, skin integrity, safety and diet & nutrition.
“Any diagnosis that have been referred to, are listed on the letter provided by the discharging hospital.
“In light of all the above information and the fact that we have repeatedly provided appropriate responses with supporting documentary evidence to Mr Walne’s family, we are satisfied that all procedures were followed in line with current legislation. We do, however, sympathise with Mr Walne’s family and offer our sincere condolences.
“Our most recent CQC compliance inspection highlighted a flaw in our auditing of medication. This matter was immediately resolved and we are keen to have this confirmed during our next Care Quality Commission inspection.”
Steve Gross, Lancashire County Council’s executive director of adult services, health and wellbeing, said: “It is important that Mr Walne’s complaints are looked into thoroughly and impartially.
“An independent person from outside the county council will be appointed who will be in touch with Mr Walne to discuss his complaints as soon as possible.”