NHS slammed for care home neglect of proud Martin

HEALTH chiefs have been slammed for failing an elderly dementia patient who died after becoming malnourished and severely dehydrated in a Lothian care home.

• Janet and Martin Philbin, who was a miners union official

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has ordered NHS Lothian to apologise to the family of 83-year-old Martin Philbin amid scathing criticism of the level of care he received.

The health board today insisted that lessons had been learned from the case.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Retired miner Mr Philbin, from Uphall, West Lothian, died three days after being admitted to St John's Hospital in Livingston in July last year. He had lived at the town's Maple Villa Care Home for five years but in the last year, his family says the level of care provided deteriorated.

In the report on the case, the Ombudsman upheld the family's complaints and said the NHS had not ensured Mr Philbin received adequate nutrition or "appropriate general care" prior to his death.

His granddaughter Kirstine McPherson said they pursued the complaint on behalf of Mr Philbin's widow Janet, inspired by his history as a union official representing miners.

"He taught us to stick at something that was worth fighting for, and even though the report is too late for him, I'm sure he'll look down and be proud," she said.

"He was such a proud man, always immaculately dressed, and to see him lose so much dignity was terrible.

"We are realistic, we know he was ill and don't expect this would have saved his life, but he deserved so much more."

It is the latest in a string of cases which have called the care of dementia patients into question. Earlier this year the Evening News revealed how patients begged their families not to let them die in the Royal Victoria dementia ward. And families have also raised concerns about the quality of care for dementia patients in Liberton Hospital.

Mr Philbin eventually died of a combination of blood poisoning and a urine infection, all linked to the effects of dementia.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The health board said that Mr Philbin's challenging behaviour as a result of his Alzheimer's made it difficult to care for him in the home.

But the Ombudsman's report pointed out the specialist NHS Lothian centre is supposed to cater for people in exactly that position. It also made a raft of recommendations for change.

The report ruled that "there was no evidence" that Mr Philbin's food and fluid intake had been monitored appropriately, and that safeguards against malnutrition "fell well below the standard" of what they should have been.

It concluded: "He was in the care of a specialist residential facility which claimed to cater for those who suffered the more challenging effects of dementia. It was, therefore, expected that the behaviour he presented was not unknown."

Chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association Margaret Watt said: "Dignity is so important and the things we see in these homes across the country are unbelievable, you'd think some homes hadn't heard of the word."

NHS Lothian's nurse director Melanie Hornett said the health board had apologised.

She said: "I would like to publicly apologise to [the family] for the distress this has caused and I am writing to offer a formal apology.

"We accept all the recommendations made by the Ombudsman and have already implemented changes."