Midlothian woman, 65, 'unnecessarily' moved from one care home to another where she picked up Covid-19 and died - days before damning inspection

A devastated Midlothian family claims their mother was "unnecessarily" moved from one care home to another where she picked up Covid-19 and died - days before inspectors found "serious" issues there with PPE and infection control.

Margaret Laidlaw, who was from Dalkeith and had Vascular Dementia, was in Drummond Grange nursing home in Lasswade for just three weeks before she died there on May 22nd at the age of 65.

Her family said she was moved there from Highbank Care Home Dalkeith - an intermediate facility where she had lived for nine months - at the end of April, despite them raising fears about it being peak virus and stressing she was healthy where she was. The family pleaded for her move to be delayed for up to six weeks but say they were told by the council's social work department she had to leave because of "bed blocking" and that her space at Drummond might become unavailable.

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Mrs Laidlaw's daughter told the Evening News: "Lockdown means lockdown, we could not go to another house during lockdown so why was this the case for my mum?

Margaret Laidlaw with her son, Iain and her grandson Lewis (Iain's son).Margaret Laidlaw with her son, Iain and her grandson Lewis (Iain's son).
Margaret Laidlaw with her son, Iain and her grandson Lewis (Iain's son).

"Due to her underlying health conditions, she would have been classed as shielding and should not have been moved."

A spokesperson for Midlothian Council confirmed they are investigating a complaint from the family but stressed they work closely with patients and families to arrange a move and that appropriate consent procedures are always in place. The spokesperson added: "We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family.”

Covid-19 is listed as the cause of death on Mrs Laidlaw's death certificate and a report has been sent to the Crown Office as part of a nationwide review into coronavirus related deaths in Scotland's care homes.

The Edinburgh Evening News reported earlier this week how the family of 80-year-old Rodger Laing claimed their father was "needlessly" sent from a hospital to Drummond Grange nursing home, where he contracted Covid-19 and died on May 27th.

Details of both deaths have emerged in the wake of a damning Care Inspectorate report which found "significant concerns" with the use and supply of PPE and infection prevention and control practice - including waste and laundry management - at Drummond Grange following an inspection on May 28th.

A spokesperson for care home provider Barchester Healthcare refutes these findings and says staff followed government guidance at all times and that PPE stocks were full and staff trained and experienced in infection control.

But Mrs Laidlaw's daughter said she feels like her mother has been "failed" by the system and is upset about a "lack of recognition" of her death from Drummond Grange.

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And after collecting her mother's belongings a week after her death she discovered several pairs of her trousers were missing and that some items, including a bra, belonged to other residents there.

Her daughter said: "I phoned up to ask about it and was told, 'these things happen.' We still haven't got some of her missing belongings and clothes back."

Mrs Laidlaw's son, Iain Laidlaw, said keepsakes and family photographs were sent to his mother along with items like a ceramic rainbow for her window, but none were put in her room at Drummond Grange and the only things in there were a TV and a blanket bought for her at Christmas.

The 30-year-old said: "I feel like they have made it so impersonal and have taken the fact she is a person away.

"I can not say it for certain, but I definitely feel she would still be alive if she had stayed in Highbank. I feel confident that their control of the virus would have been enough to keep my mum safe.

"We were happy with the carers in Highbank and felt it was an unnecessary risk moving her somewhere else. We feel like we have been let down by the system and that people in the profession have not followed guidelines properly with PPE and infection control."

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The Barchester Healthcare spokesperson said a detailed inventory is done on admission and discharge and apologised for any errors made with additional clothing being given in this case, but stressed all infection control measures are in place to support additional cleaning of clothes in line with official guidance.

'Catalogue of errors'

Mrs Laidlaw was temporarily placed in Highbank Care Home in August last year and, after visiting several other homes in February she chose Drummond Grange - which cares for highly dependent people - as the best setting for full time care and a place came up in mid-April.

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Mrs Laidlaw was admitted to the nursing home on April 28th but her family wanted their mother's move to be delayed by four to six weeks because it was the peak of the virus. However, they say they were told by the council's health and social care team she had to move because of "bed blocking" and that there was a possibility she may lose her place at Drummond.

Her daughter became concerned when she called her mother on the iPad a few days into her stay and noticed she was in the dining area instead of her room, where they were told she would stay in quarantine for the first two weeks.

The Barchester spokesperson insisted that, after lengthy conversations with staff, Mrs Laidlaw did complete a 14-day isolation period and that new residents are cared for in line with Health Protection Scotland guidance on isolation and barrier nursing.

The spokesperson confirmed previously that some residents at the home have died after testing positive for Covid-19, although numbers have not been specified.

Mrs Laidlaw, who tested negative for the virus before moving to Drummond Grange, became lethargic a week before she died but a doctor confirmed high temperature and breathing difficulties the day before she passed away - and she tested positive for Covid-19.

The family say they were told by a doctor their mother did not meet the criteria to go on a ventilator, due to her age and underlying health conditions which included Type 2 Diabetes, and that it was a case of making her feel comfortable with end of life care.

Mrs Laing's three children visited her the night before she died and one of them said they were greeted by a member of staff at the home who was not wearing gloves, and that social distancing was not maintained during one conversation in an office.

Mrs Laing's daughter added: "When you are at the peak of a global pandemic, infection control and vigilance is paramount.”

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The family has lodged an official complaint with Midlothian Council, Barchester Healthcare and the Care Inspectorate in relation to what they describe as a "catalogue of errors" leading to their mother's death.

'Devoted grandmother'

Mrs Laidlaw was only diagnosed with Vascular Dementia in January, aged 64, but the signs were there for a few years after she fell into a Diabetic coma in 2014.

Her family said she "lived for her kids and grandkids" and adored all of the eight family dogs.

In earlier life, Mrs Laidlaw worked as a hairdresser at Focus in Dalkeith for about 25 years, as well as in a couple of Edinburgh salons, and was described by her family as a popular person who would always look out for others.

Her son, Iain, described his mum as witty and sarcastic and having an all round good sense of humour.

Mrs Laidlaw leaves three children and six grandchildren, whom she loved to take out on trips when she was able.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report in connection with the death.

“The investigation into the death, under the direction of Covid-19 Death Investigation Team (CDIT), is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments."

Inspection findings

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A summary of the Care Inspectorate report, published last week, highlighted concerns at Drummond Grange with supply and use of PPE and infection prevention and control, and with staff knowledge of residents' status in relation to Covid-19.

A "serious concern" letter with requirements was issued and the health and social care partnership also provided staff to support changes to practice at the 114-bed nursing home.

The report said a follow-up inspection was required on June 4th and noted that several improvements had been made by this point

However, the Barchester Care spokesperson said previously they are concerned about how the inspection was done, alleging "unprofessional behaviour" of inspectors and a "serious breach of privacy protocol" and a "worrying lack of knowledge" of the pandemic legal guidance and rules around PPE and social distancing.

The spokesperson also said inspectors had failed to understand the most basic care home procedures and that there were delays of three weeks in supplying information to help address concerns in a timely manner, claiming this was done "as an opportunity to damn providers."

A Care Inspectorate spokesperson said previously that part of their work includes asking care services to notify them of suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases, to enable them to direct help and support where it is needed.

The spokesperson added: "We understand this is a really worrying time for people who experience care, their loved ones and families and for those who work in care. Our thoughts are with all those affected."