We need to take a united stand . . .
My experience was not in Essex but I support WhereIsTheCare. I had been a nurse with a successful career spanning twenty-seven years, eighteen years of which were spent managing care homes. I had a history of turning round under performing care homes then moving on once the homes matched my standards passing audits and inspections. I had always relished a challenge and this was no different when I was transferred to manage XXXXXXXXX at XXXXXXXXXX home in XXXX, England.
Immediately I had concerns on the unit, there was evidence of long-term neglect of frail and vulnerable elderly residents with dementia. Some of them had developed pressure sores for which there were no pressure relieving mattresses, care plans or records of positional changes. I was concerned regarding dehydration and malnutrition of some of the residents and the unacceptable practices of tablets being crushed and covertly given in food and drink contravening all current protocols and without the usual safeguards being put into place. I was concerned regarding the amount of stock in the medication room and filled seven large pharmaceutical boxes with excess stock that had been recorded and signed as been administered to the residents when they clearly had not. Care plans and risk assessments had not been updated for over six months despite the mandatory requirement of monthly updates or as a patient’s condition changes.
At the time of my transfer I was not aware that the local Adult Safeguarding Team, due to their valid concerns, had closed the unit to admissions. These senior social workers openly expressed their relief upon learning that I was the new unit manager, as they had known me to be proactive and successful.
The healthcare staff members were keen to learn how to do things properly and were aghast to hear that that many of their practices constituted abuse. They had not been shown or taught how to do things and lacked basic training. I conducted many tutorials on the eight days I was managing XXXXXXXXXX on basic tasks such as assisting someone to eat and drink. Recording the intake contemporaneously was unknown to them. I kept informing my manager of what I was witnessing and uncovering. She was quite dismissive in her approach declaring that she had every confidence in me stating that was why I had been transferred. I would have been successful in turning XXXXXXXXXX round had she not continuously left me short staffed moving staff to cover shortages else where or not replacing someone who had taken sick leave. My experiences told me that this was a disaster waiting to happen so I started to record everything in the nurse’s diary.
One lady in particular caused me concern, I had her reviewed by the community matron, her GP and had referred her to other healthcare professionals. This lady was known to be very vocal, strip off and crawl around floors naked. I was not aware at that time that she had been assessed as needing 1:1 care to maintain her safety but this was never forthcoming. One afternoon this lady developed a bruise over her right eye that I could not account for. I was unable to conduct her vital observations given her rapidly deteriorating health status and was concerned that she may have a head injury so I rang for an ambulance and had her transferred to the nearest A&E unit.
Due to her usual behaviour of crawling around floors I knew that she had extensive bruising, however unaware of this the A&E staff thought she was a victim of physical abuse and alerted the police. So began an in-depth investigation. I was suspended on false allegations of neglect where upon I submitted twenty-four mitigating circumstances as my defence during what I felt was a bogus and farcical disciplinary procedure. These twenty-four mitigating circumstances were ignored by my employer. During my suspension period I was not paid my full wage and consequently lost my home. The stress was unbearable and for a while I resorted to drinking. My GP signed me off sick with depression and I was prescribed antidepressants. Finally I was invited to return to work with a final written warning to remain on my file for a period of eighteen months. Needless to say I had lost all trust in my employers and resigned citing constructive dismissal.
Eventually the police wanted to interview me, I was convinced that I would be arrested due to the false allegations my employer had levied at me. I thought no one would take my word over my employers. I felt I was being used as a scapegoat. The Police had interviewed all of my colleagues both on XXXXXXXX and my previous XXXX and relatives of my patients. Not one person had made a bad remark or said a negative thing, all stated that I was a caring nurse who knew what she was doing and did everything properly. The daughter of the lady the investigation centred on confirmed that I truly cared for her mother. She had been complaining to senior personnel in the company for months regarding concerns of neglect and poor care and had been recording everything in her personal diary. Ironically what she had written in her diary matched my entries in the nurse’s diary. The police had to threaten with a court order in order to gain access to the diary because my employers were less than co-operative. Despite giving evidence in a subsequent a court case, for all of this I have been branded a whistleblower.
Since 2010 I have given up nursing due to the effect all of this had on my health and have been campaigning for improvements in the care sector, particularly with regards to the training of healthcare staff. Inadvertently I have become a voluntary national consultant on all matters pertaining to care of the elderly. I receive messages daily from healthcare professionals seeking advice or from relatives of those in care needing support due to cases of neglect and abuse. I am only too aware of the 196+ average cases of neglect and abuse of our vulnerable elderly reported daily in the UK (2015).