Two residents died questionably and others were left at serious risk at a Northamptonshire care home targeted for closure by inspectors, the Care Standards Tribunal heard yesterday.
One resident, known as RL, died in July after allegedly choking on a piece of food at the Alton Centre care home in Wellingborough, run by Active Care Partnership Ltd, a subsidiary of the Southern Cross Healthcare Group.
In August, when another resident died after allegedly failing to receive medical attention, the Commission for Social Care Inspection secured an urgent order from a magistrate to cancel the home’s registration. The tribunal is hearing the company’s appeal against the decision this week.
Sara Morrison, a regulation manager at the Commission for Social Care Inspection, said she had been told by Northamptonshire’s safeguarding manager that RL had died by choking, based on information from the police.
She said his death had been an “important trigger” for taking action against the home. “We knew that the Alton Centre cared for people with profound physical needs and became concerned that this should be happening to someone else,” she told the tribunal.
Found dead during lunch period
RL, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, was found dead during a lunchtime period when a member of staff had left the room, the tribunal heard. Morrison said he should have been supervised while eating but this had not happened. She added that police took his care records from the home after RL’s daughter raised concerns about the alleged lack of supervision.
Morrison also alleged that while no problems had been recorded for RL in the week before his death, the home’s care records “could not be trusted for their accuracy”.
However, Philip Engelman, counsel for Active Care Partnership Ltd, pointed out that the post-mortem on RL had found he had died of natural causes. Morrison said she had not seen the post-mortem report on RL until the tribunal this week.
Engelman accused her of “taking police word as gospel” that RL had choked to death. He suggested she had made a “knee-jerk reaction” in response to concerns she had heard about a number of Southern Cross homes, of which the Alton Centre home was one.
A second resident, known as MB, died in the small hours of 6-7 August, the tribunal was told. A post-mortem report last week showed the cause of death of sepsis – a wound infection – pneumonia and a sacral ulcer. Roger McCarthy, counsel for CSCI, said the records at the home showed there was no wound assessment for MB for the last three weeks of his life.
Morrison said inspectors had visited MB on 6 August before his death and that he had died without seeing a doctor.
She said Active Care Partnership had failed to give a “robust” response to the concerns raised and concluded there was “significant and serious risk to service users”.
Engelman said the company “accepted that there were failings on the part of the manager in professional responsibility and team leadership”
The tribunal in London was told the care home’s manager had been suspended on 7 August and that a disciplinary investigation was ongoing.
The tribunal continues.