Son speaks out over war hero's care home death

PUBLISHED: 16:28 12 February 2007 | UPDATED: 19:56 01 June 2010

Mr Woods relaxing in his garden

Mr Woods relaxing in his garden

WAR hero Arthur Woods survived being machine gunned at Dunkirk only to have his life ended by a brutal attack by a fellow resident of a Wisbech care home. When he arrived at hospital, his son, Andrew, was warned by a nurse to brace himself for the shock o

Mr Woods in his war years

WAR hero Arthur Woods survived being machine gunned at Dunkirk only to have his life ended by a brutal attack by a fellow resident of a Wisbech care home.

When he arrived at hospital, his son, Andrew, was warned by a nurse to brace himself for the shock of seeing his disfigured father.

"I could barely recognise him," he said. "It was horrific."

An inquest cleared anyone of blame but Andrew Woods believes society provides inadequate protection for care home residents and staff.

He spoke exclusively to MAGGIE GIBSON.

"FOR it all to end in this way is just terrible," said Andrew Woods. " We don't want to point the finger at anyone but regulations must be changed to help residents and staff.

"It has exposed a gaping hole in the system and the guidelines for staffing levels are totally inadequate."

Mr Woods was speaking after a two day inquest heard how his father died following an assault by a fellow resident of a Wisbech care home.

Andrew says he will be now battle to make sure the system is changed to spare other families the agony he says has been endured by his own.

"I am very proud of my father," he said. " He was in the Second World War for the entire six years. He was machine gunned and almost killed at Dunkirk. He recovered from his injuries to serve in North Africa and Italy. Finally he was parachuted into Arnhem and was one of just 2,000 out of 10,000 to survive."

The inquest heard how 85-year-old Mr Woods died following an assault by a fellow resident at the Edendale care home in 2005. The former railwayman, whose widow lives in Seventh Avenue, Wisbech, suffered from dementia, as did the other resident involved in the incident.

The coroner said a catalogue of failures including a shortage of staff on the night of the attack, had contributed to his death. He echoed Mr Woods' concerns by calling for changes in care home guidelines and will be contacting the Department of Health and the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

Mr Woods has called for strict guidelines on staffing levels and staff training; careful and regular assessment of residents with dementia to monitor potential risk to staff and other residents; guidelines about gaps between appointing managers; and the installation of monitoring systems in rooms away from care stations.

Mr Woods stressed he has only admiration for those who work in care homes under the present system.

He said: "These carers do a very demanding job, I have no gripe with these people, they have some very unsavoury tasks to do. There should be guidelines to protect them, violence often goes hand in hand with dementia and people like this need a different level of care.

"It begs the question should the other man have been removed before this happened because he needed a different level of care. People like this should not be in residential homes being looked after by staff with no medical experience."

Mr Woods said he was called to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, where his father had been taken suffering from horrific facial injuries more usually associated with car smashes.

He said: "A nurse stopped me and said you must prepare yourself for a serious shock. It took my breath away. I had to go outside for five or 10 minutes just to settle myself before I could be with him. I could barely recognise him, it was horrific. I sat for 21 hours solid with my dad before he died.

"People like this are 100 per cent reliant on those in homes who care for them. I want them to be safe and the people who look after them to be safe. It is a relief that the inquest is over but these regulations must be changed to protect everyone."

Mr Woods added: "Although the coroner's concerns carry weight, he cannot legally force anyone to do things. It is crystal clear to me what happened on that night and I want to make sure it does not happen again."

He says if the coroner's concerns are not acted on he will continue the fight himself.

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