Halifax nursing home owner and manager face neglect trial

Bradford Crown Court
Bradford Crown Court

The owner of a Halifax nursing home and his “bullying” manager have gone on trial accused of neglecting four elderly residents who suffered pressure sores while at their premises.

A jury heard how police officers and a team of NHS nurses went into the Elm View nursing home in Huddersfield Road back in October 2011.

Two women residents were found to be suffering from pressure sores and prosecutor Nicholas Askins said staff told police about bad practices at the home which had increased the risks.

Mr Askins alleged that the home struggled to retain qualified nurses and did not have enough pressure-relieving mattresses.

“The prosecution case, based on the evidence of the home’s own staff, is that in the year preceding the intervention of the police the standard of pressure sore care in Elm View declined markedly,” said Mr Askins.

“This poor practice was not a latent feature of life in the home, but was there to be seen. The defendants knew of the bad practice.”

Mr Askins said the home’s manager Faheza Simpson, 49, was described by staff as ‘’short-tempered’’ and having an aggressive personality.

“At times her behaviour towards those working under her supervision could properly be characterised as bullying,” said Mr Askins.

“This is an important feature of the case as her mistreatment of the nurses and carers employed by the home caused many to leave.”

Structural engineer Philip Bentley, 65, had bought Elm View with his wife in November 1990 and Mr Askins said the residents at the home required either full nursing care or were residents with a high level of dependency.

The prosecution allege that Simpson, of Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, and Bentley, of Woodthorpe Drive, Wakefield, were both responsible for the neglect of 68-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer Ian Ball, 85-year-old stroke victim Phyllis Hagreen, 81-year-old Mildred Threadgold, who had Alzheimer’s and could not walk or speak, and 78-year-old dementia sufferer Margaret Patterson who was completely immobile.

Simpson and Bentley have pleaded not guilty to the four neglect charges which cover a period between December 2010 and October 2011.

Mr Askins outlined detailed evidence about the pressure sores suffered by the four complainants during their time at the home and he alleged that Simpson’s behaviour resulted in a high turnover of personnel.

“The home became increasingly dependent on agency workers as opposed to staff employed on a full-time basis,” he said.

“These staffing difficulties affected the capacity of those looking after the residents to perform their duties properly.

“The evidence also shows that the home lacked the supplies and protective equipment needed for all the residents who were at risk of pressure sores.”

Mr Askins alleged that residents were not taken to the toilet often enough and could be left in a soiled state.

“Similarly the ability of staff to turn residents in bed with the required regularity, every two hours, or reposition them in their chairs was adversely affected,” he added.

The jury was told that care plans for residents became out of date and proper records were not kept.

“At one stage Faheza Simpson took away the camera used in the home to record the state of a resident’s pressure sores,” alleged Mr Askins.

He said that dressings were not changed often enough and the home ran out of wipes for cleaning residents.

“It is the prosecution case that during the indictment period a lamentable standard of pressure sore care prevailed in Elm View,” said Mr Askins.

“When the staffing and equipment problems described created an inadequate system of pressure sore care the defendants knew their residents at the home who were vulnerable to pressure sores would not receive the care they needed.

“This was a state of affairs they chose to tolerate.”

Mr Askins alleged that the defendants tried to cover up what had happened to Mr Ball at the home after his wife Janet wrote a letter of complaint in April 2011.

Simpson is alleged to have threatened to suspend a member of staff after he refused to alter a statement about Mr Ball’s care.

Mr Askins said a letter sent to Mrs Ball by Bentley ended with the “astonishing conclusion” that her husband had been ‘very well looked after by all our staff’.

An internal report criticised Mrs Ball and even suggested that she was trying to get out of paying her bill.

During questioning by police Simpson. an experienced registered general nurse who was appointed manager at the home in October 2008, said she had to defer to Bentley.

She conceded she could be authoritarian at time, but said the high turnover of staff was due to Bentley not paying them promptly or correctly.

Simpson claimed to raised her concerns about staffing with Bentley and social services, but there was no drive to recruit more staff.

“Faheza Simpson said she couldn’t get enough air mattresses because Philip Bentley had an outstanding bill to the supplier,” said Mr Askins.

Bentley told police that although the number of staff had fallen it had not affected the running of the home.

“He left it to Faheza Simpson to decide how many staff were required as she understood the patients’ needs,” said Mr Askins.

“He had always agreed to her requests for staff and cost was never an issue.”

The trial could last up to six weeks.