Residents moved out of Harrogate care home amid nursing worries

Alexander Care Home.
Alexander Care Home.

Elderly residents are being moved out of a Harrogate care home following ‘mounting concerns’ about nursing care at the home.

The decision to close the nursing care aspects of Alexander Court care home on Cornwall Road was revealed on Monday (July 21) after a damning inspection report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

NADV 1407221AM1 Ann Marie Gregory who's step father choked to death in Alexander Court Care Home. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1407221AM1)

NADV 1407221AM1 Ann Marie Gregory who's step father choked to death in Alexander Court Care Home. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1407221AM1)

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and the Harrogate and Rural District Clincal Commissioning Group (CCG) will have moved the 12 elderly residents who received nursing care at the home to other care facilities by today (July 24) .

They took the decision on Monday July 14, a week after an elderly resident choked on food and died at the Cornwall Road care home on July 6, though the council and the CCG refused to comment on whether the death of 76-year-old William O’Connell influenced the decision to move residents.An investigation into his death is ongoing.

The CQC took enforcement action against the care home, formerly known as Waldernheath, earlier this year, after uncovering shocking catalogue of errors at the home.

A report published in June, one month before Mr O’Connell’s death, found that residents were at risk of malnutrition, as staff failed to record food and fluid intake and inspectors found that residents had gone without their prescribed medication for up to four days.

An investigation has been launched into William O'Connell's death

An investigation has been launched into William O'Connell's death

During a routine follow up inspection on July 8 and 9 the CQC learned of Mr O’Connell’s death. The CQC informed the local authority of its ‘mounting concerns’ after the inspection and the council took the decision to takeresidents out of the home.

The family of Mr O’Connell have questioned why action wasn’t taken sooner after the initial poor inspection.

His step-daughter Ann-Marie Gregory, a barrister who lives on Unity Grove in Harrogate, said: “Why are they doing it now, why are they doing it so late, why has it taken them so long to take action?

“It should have been done a lot sooner.”

A council spokesman admitted that the council and the CCG had been concerned about the quality of care at Alexander Court for ‘some time’.

They said: “NYCC’s health and adult services and NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG, are taking immediate steps to provide support and care for residents of the Alexander Court Care Home in Harrogate, as a result of concerns raised following an inspection by the CQC.

“The council and the CCG will now move forward to find alternative accommodation by the end of this week for those residents of Alexander Court who are registered for nursing care.”

Debbie Westhead, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of adult social care in the North said the CQC would will continue to monitor the provider and ‘will not hesitate to take more action if necessary’.

She said: “A recent CQC inspection to follow up on previous issues has resulted in further concerns about the standards of care at Alexander Court, and we are liaising closely with NYCC and local commissioners to safeguard the wellbeing of everyone who lives at the home.”

The council said it is making arrangements for the other 35 residents who remain at the 85-bed care home Alexander Court, in case it becomes necessary to move them.

The council spokesman added: “Other arrangements are being prepared in case it also becomes necessary to find alternative accommodation for the remaining residents who do not receive nursing care.

“The Council and the CCG have had concerns for some time about the quality of care being provided at Alexander Court. These concerns include a variety of issues, ranging from medication and nursing care to the comfort and the dignity with which residents are treated.”

Inspectors reported staff referring to residents as ‘feeders’ and ‘wanderers’ in a derogatory way during a visit in March when they also witnessed one elderly resident choking on food, despite their notes clearly stating they could only eat pureed food.

“I can’t think of the words to say how shocked I was,” said Ms Gregory. “If I had any idea about the report I would have pulled him out.”

An inquest into Mr O’Connells death was opened and adjourned last week and Coroner Rob Turnbull established the cause of death as respiratory obstruction.

At Harrogate Magistrates Court last week he said: “He was a resident at the care home and was being fed by staff at the nursing home when he started choking, a short time later CPR was carried out on Mr O’Connell but he died of respiratory obstruction caused by choking on food with Parkinsons disease as a contributory factor.

“A secondary cause of death was coronary heart problems.”

A spokesman from the Care Home group Esteem Care Ltd which runs Alexander Court said: “Upon the passing of Mr William O’Connell, the Alexander Court staff team and provider Himat Gami have extended their deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr O’Connell.

“As the CQC and other external agencies continue the investigation into Mr O’Connell’s passing it is crucial to understand that no formal conclusions have been drawn in regards to the circumstances of the incident. There is a current investigation underway.

“Alexander Court remains dedicated to the safeguarding of all clients; every measure is being taken to maintain a safe environment. As an organisation Esteem Care is now and has always been committed to the continual development of the quality and care within Alexander Court.

“The CQC have decided to remove Alexander Court’s nursing registration and the home has complied with this decision which will be finalised in the coming week.

As a result all nursing clients will be removed from the home by Thursday of July 24 2014.”

“It wasn’t his time” - A devastated family speaks out after shock death.

The family of Mr O’Connell have been left asking why the nursing care wasn’t halted sooner.

“I don’t think the home should remain open at all,” said Mr O’Connell’s step daughter Ann-Marie Gregory.

Mr O’Connell had lived at Alexander Court for five years, after Ms Gregory, a barrister, moved her mother, Bridie McGlynn and step father to Harrogate from their home in Manchester when her mother first needed nursing care.

“I brought them here as I thought Harrogate had the best care in the country,” she said.

Her mother was cared for at a different nursing home in Harrogate before her death nine years ago, while Mr O’Connell lived in a flat close to Ms Gregory’s Harrogate home.

“He carried on for as long as he could but he was not coping so I managed to get him into Alexander Court when it was Waldernheath around five years ago. In my own mind I thought, there he is, he is being cared for, I don’t need to worry about it anymore.”

Ms Gregory said she stumbled across the Harrogate Advertiser article on the home’s appalling CQC inspection report online. After she read the full report she called the care home but staff reassured her that improvements had been made.

“I was horrified when I read the report, I spoke to the home straight away but they said things had been blown out of proportion.”

Mr O’Connell died at around 5pm on July 6. Later that evening Ms Gregory received a phone call from paramedics.

She said: “I had lots of family up visiting for the Tour de France, it had been a good day. Then I got the call to say he was gone.”

It wasn’t until three days after her father’s death when the post mortem results were faxed to her home that Ms Gregory realised how Mr O’Connell had died.

“If he had a heart attack I could have accepted it. When it said choking on food and there would be an inquiry, it was a huge shock. I had to ring all of the family and say, no, he didn’t die peacefully.”

Ms Gregory said her daughter, Victoria Gregory was devastated by the news.

“Although he and my mother never married they were together from when Victoria was born. He has been the only grandfather she has ever known.”

She added: “It wasn’t his time, choking to death is not your time.

“He should have died peacefully..”

Ms Gregory’s sister, Cath Williams, who lives in Manchester, added: “We are just devastated. It’s still not sunk in, it has come as a massive shock.

She added: “It has been very hard for us to take it all in,I think the place should be shut down completely. You think that they are going to be safe in a care home.”

MP Andrew Jones ‘shocked’ at care home failings.

Harrogate’s MP Andrew Jones said he was pleased to see the CQC taking swift action.

Following the decision to take residents out of the home he said: “In March his year, the CQC made an unannounced visit to Alexander House. They found that the standards of care were unacceptable and issued an improvement notice. I described the deficiencies at the care home as being ‘shocking’.

“ Whatever the circumstances this is a tragedy for the family concerned and my thoughts are with them. The CQC is taking further action to protect residents and to bring the care at Alexander House up to the excellent levels we see in care homes across Harrogate. The Government strengthened the inspection regime this year so that the CQC could take swift action where care was deficient. I am pleased to see that the CQC is using those powers.”