It’s important to remember that you have a right to expect certain standards of care, and a right to complain if things aren’t right especially with the development of pressure sores.
Dealing with unsatisfactory care and making a complaint can be a daunting task, especially if you are worried about the care of a relative and have little energy as a carer family to fight the necessary battles you may face.
It is an exhausting, upsetting, frustrating and slow moving process to take legal action and we didn’t even get to court – unfortunately.
The goal of a civil action is to remedy damages, a criminal prosecution is meant to punish the harmful conduct. You cannot punish the harmful conduct (neglect/abuse) of a care home in this country, only an individual, unless for breach of contract perhaps or similar – a civil action may or may not, even after several years give you the acknowledgements of poor care, admissions of liability and any apologies at all that you are looking for as a carer family.
Even punishing by prosecution the harmful conduct of an individual is rare, this shouldn’t be so either. There was a landmark case in Liverpool, see this link www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9149296/Bupa-put-profit-first-at-filthy-and-understaffed-care-home-says-judge.html. A care home manager convicted of wilful neglect of a 90 year old lady, sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.
This situation in this country needs to change. There needs to be some accountability in the courts. Generally families are not after money they want things to change. There are difficulties in establishing personal blame regarding criminal prosecution but shouldn’t a care home be liable?
Civil legal action does make a point, and, as profit seems to be what a lot of care home companies care about, a civil action will hopefully hit them where they hurt. And it will affect their insurance. It is our real hope that it will make care homes that provide poor care think and review their systems and procedures including any other defendants involved in the any action, in our case, the Primary Case Trust’s district nurse service – and take complaints more seriously in the future for the sake of those whom they continue to offer care to and their families.
Civil actions and regulatory fines seem to be the main consequences for residential homes and nursing homes that abuse or neglect elderly residents. The Government needs to become much more aggressive in citing health care organisations for allowing residents to develop pressure sores for example. We feel this should be extended to hospitals and hospital personnel.
Care homes companies and ‘culpable directors’ should be being prosecuted.
• Older people’s injuries, pain and life-threatening deep pressure wounds should be made a crime and care homes should be prosecuted, including any provable abuse.
• Care home managers/directors should be members of bodies with disciplinary powers
• Govt / local authorities should ensure that deep pressure ulcers should be elevated to that of a notifiable condition, meaning authorities have to monitor the condition.
• That “protective outcomes” need to be in place to ensure the wellbeing of individuals when an allegation is made or evidence of harm has occurred including that of healthcare workers that report neglect and abuse.
• General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) needs to implement continuing reform to ensure that fitness to practise proceedings are conducted effectively and as quickly as practicable
Some Points to Note and Advice from our experience:
• If one firm of solicitors won’t help you, go to another and another.
• Take photos as evidence, make sure district nurses/nurses have taken photos and recorded wounds.
• Keeps all receipts/logs of anything you spend in relation to expenses to look after your elderly relative if you suspect wrongdoing.
• Have an experienced nurse on your side, looking over nursing reports and nursing matters, who may attend meetings with you, should you disagree with reports/events throughout the process.
• Even if the system is No Win No Fee, there are costs throughout the process such as medical report fees, Expert Court Witness Fees.
• Use a highly experienced independent Expert Court Witness – Nursing, whose findings would be extremely difficult to challenge. Research yourself and advise your solicitor if need be.
• If you disagree with an independent Expert Court Witness – Nursing, findings and the report doesn’t make sense to you and/or is factually incorrect, challenge it.
• Always negotiate a settlement.
• Ask your solicitors to request letters of apology even if they are not offered, we feel if your defendant(s) have any decency they will offer one.
• If pressure sores caused or contributed to a loved one’s death then there likely is a cause of action for wrongful death. In such legal action, the family of the deceased could possibly recover damages for medical expenses related to the individual’s care, funeral expenses, lost wages, loss of society, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
• Autopsies can be extremely helpful in cases of severe pressure sores in rebutting arguments made by organizations who may argue that a death was the result of ‘old age’ or due to a ‘variety complicated medical factors’. They are helpful in prosecuting wrongful death matters related to bed sores due to the fact that a physician can make a medical determination as to the cause of death. Specific medical complications such as infection and sepsis may be confirmed by an autopsy as opposed to speculation.
Be aware that pressure sores may result in an expedited decline in overall condition and death. An elderly person can die of septic shock from infection, infection resulting directly from pressure sores.
We encourage you to take legal action.
We took this action on behalf our mum Renee.
To face up to neglectful organisations.
We wish you courage, strength and determination to do the same.
Actions like this represent many silent voices.