Short-staffing slammed as 85-year-old dies after assault in care home

PUBLISHED: 12:28 05 February 2007 | UPDATED: 19:56 01 June 2010

The care home where the incident happened

The care home where the incident happened

A CORONER has called for tougher care home regulations after hearing how an elderly man died following an assault by a fellow resident.

The two-day inquest into the death of 85-year-old Arthur Woods heard he was found in the Wisbech home s lounge with swe

A CORONER has called for tougher care home regulations after hearing how an elderly man died following an assault by a fellow resident.

The two-day inquest into the death of 85-year-old Arthur Woods heard he was found in the Wisbech home's lounge with swelling to his face and lip and, although not witnessed by staff, another elderly resident said he hit him.

Mr Woods was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn but died a few days later on October 27, 2005.

David Osborne, assistant deputy coroner for North East Cambridgeshire, said a catalogue of failures at Edendale care home, including a shortage of staff on the night of the suspected attack, had contributed to Mr Woods's death.

He said he would be writing to the Department of Health and the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) calling for changes in guidelines for care homes.

The inquest, which concluded on Friday, heard that two staff were on duty, caring for more than 25 people with dementia and similar illnesses, when there should have been three.

In his narrative verdict, Mr Osborne said: "The risk of the assault might have been avoided or at least greatly reduced if in particular the care home had not been so short-staffed on that

night."

Mr Osborne added that the home, which at the time was run by Ashbourne Health Care, had recently changed ownership and this had resulted in a change of policy and documentation.

The home was also struggling with high levels of staff sickness and the care workers at the time had not been given adequate training in adult protection.

Although the primary cause of death was pneumonia, thought to have been contracted while being treated in hospital, Mr Osborne said: "I am therefore satisfied that the various system failures referred to, did contribute to Arthur Woods death in the sense that because of these

failures, the risk of incidents occurring was greatly increased."

Speaking after the hearing Mr Woods's son Andrew said he was happy with the coroner's finding and commended him for raising the issues and asking that they be looked into.

The home has since been taken over by Southern Cross Healthcare Group.

A spokesman for Southern Cross, said: "Under our new ownership a thorough review of staff and procedures was carried out.

"Southern Cross is committed to ensuring that staffing levels are appropriate to the needs of our residents in each of our homes.

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