A CORONER has ruled that neglect contributed to the deaths of five elderly people who died after staying at a care home which has come under fierce criticism.
Penelope Schofield, the West Sussex coroner, said there was “institutionalised abuse” at Orchid View care home in Copthorne and that its employees should be “ashamed”.
Her comments come after a five-week inquest heard details of the shocking conditions elderly residents endured at the Southern Cross-run home.
Residents were given wrong doses of medication, left soiled and unattended due to staff shortages and there was a lack of management. Call bells were often not answered for long periods, or could not be reached by elderly people, and the home was deemed “an accident waiting to happen”.
Ms Schofield said: “There was institutionalised abuse throughout the home and it started, in my view, at a very early stage, and nobody did anything about it. This, to me, was from the top down. It was completely mismanaged and understaffed and failed to provide a safe environment for residents.”
Ms Schofield said it was “disgraceful” that the home, which has since closed, was allowed to be run in the way it was for two years.
She criticised the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which gave Orchid View a “good” rating in 2010 – a year before it shut the home down.
She said: “It’s a heart-breaking case. We all have parents who will probably need care in the latter part of their lives.”
The inquest looked at the deaths of 19 pensioners at the West Sussex care home after whistleblower Lisa Martin, an administrator at the home, contacted police to raise concerns about the standard of care.
The coroner ruled that all of these residents suffered “sub-optimal” care. But five of the residents – Wilfred Gardner, 85, Margaret Tucker, 77, Enid Trodden, 86, John Holmes, 85, and Jean Halfpenny, 77 – died from natural causes “which had been attributed to by neglect”.
The multimillion-pound home was said to have had a “five-star” feel when it opened in September 2009.
But one staff member at the £3,000-a-month home said: “It was like a car that looked good from the outside but it was knackered.”
A serious case review has been ordered.
Bereaved relatives called on the government to usher in “dramatic changes” to improve care standards.
Linzi Collings, Mrs Halfpenny’s daughter, said: “How the corporate failings of Southern Cross could create these events and how such terrible standards could go unnoticed by the authorities for so long has left us baffled.
“In this day and age you expect measures to be in place to protect vulnerable members of society from being subjected to such horrendously poor care.
“We believe dramatic changes are needed to the current care system, starting with greater accountability for care home owners if they are found to be making unnecessary mistakes and offering substandard services.”
The government has announced it will increase inspections of care homes to once a year to improve standards.