Police probe 4 deaths at Pentland Hill care home

Police are investigating the deaths of four elderly people at a troubled private care home.

Pentland Hills care home. Picture: Ian Georgeson

An initial investigation was launched earlier this year following the death of a 67-year-old woman at the Bupa-run Pentland Hill home in Edinburgh.

It has now emerged that police are investigating a total of four deaths at the home.

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The development comes after The Scotsman yesterday revealed the concerns of a man whose elderly mother was admitted to hospital last weekend after suffering dehydration while being cared for at Pentland Hill.

Alex Hunter branded the care of his frail 88-year-old mother “a disgrace” after he had been given reassurances by the home.

Last month, a report by care homes watchdog the Care Inspectorate ordered a series of improvements at the home following an inspection.

A police spokesman said yesterday: “Police Scotland and HSE (the Health and Safety Executive) are carrying out a joint initial investigation in relation to four deaths.

“In addition, the Care Inspectorate is investigating four complaints not related to the Police Scotland/HSE inquiries.”

The investigation includes the sudden death of the 67-year-old woman at the care home in July.

Vivienne Birch, of Bupa Care Services, said: “We always report any issues, however rare, to the police and relevant authorities and, as in these cases, we actively support their investigations.

“The home had reported all injuries and admissions to hospital to the Care Inspectorate and social services.”

The damning report by the Care Inspectorate last month led to the suspension of new admissions to Pentland Hill.

Inspectors raised “serious concerns” about the quality of care and with the management following a significant number of complaints in the last year.

They carried out an unannounced review in July after upholding three complaints from families of residents.

They issued a formal notice, putting deadlines in place for improvements to be made. One of these deadlines has now passed and the watchdog is looking at whether its requirements have been met.

A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: “Every person is entitled to high-quality care which reflects their needs and promotes their rights.

“We are continuing to support this care home to make the urgent changes we set out in our improvement notice.

“We are now assessing the extent to which these requirements have been met.”

The four complaints being investigated by the inspectorate include one from Mr Hunter, who first contacted the home with his concerns after reading their critical report last month.

After raising his fears over his mother Beatrice’s weight loss, fluid intake and the development of a bedsore, he received an apology from the home and reassurances about his mother’s care. But just five days after receiving the letter, Mrs Hunter was admitted to hospital suffering dehydration and a urinary infection, leading to Mr Hunter raising his concerns again.

Bupa yesterday defended the care provided to Mrs Hunter.

Ms Birch added: “We believe we are on track to deliver the improvements we agreed with the Care Inspectorate but we appreciate we are not yet at the level we want to reach.”

She added: “On 3rd September, the home manager, a social worker and Mr Hunter met to review Mrs Hunter’s condition. It was agreed that our care plan was working as her pressure sore had virtually healed and the GP had referred Mrs Hunter for further tests to explain her weight loss. Until Sunday morning, Mrs Hunter’s condition was stable.

“On Sunday morning, she refused all food and drink and would not allow staff to assist her. The senior nurse was concerned, called NHS Direct for advice, and was told to continue to monitor her.

“At the 1pm check, the nurse was concerned that Mrs Hunter’s blood pressure had dropped, called 999 for an ambulance and alerted Mr Hunter.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Neil Findlay said: “The last inspection report on this care home was horrendous. Now we find out that the police are investigating four deaths and a number of related complaints.

“People need to feel confident that their elderly loved ones are being properly cared for when they enter such homes and there are very serious questions to be answered here.”