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Shrewsbury care home death: We thought Dad would be safe there, says family

North Shropshire | News | Published:

The family of a man who died at a Shropshire care home after going a month without being given crucial medication said today: "We thought he'd be safe at Coton Hill House".

Dennis Wootton's loved ones said they are heartbroken by his death.

Coverage Care, the owners and operators of Coton Hill House in Shrewsbury, and Alison Gough, the former manager of the home, were fined a combined total of more than £50,000 at Telford Magistrates Court yesterday in relation to his death.

Dennis Wootton

The court heard 78-year-old Mr Wootton went a month without crucial medication prescribed to him by doctors before his death in April last year.

District Judge Nigel Cadbury ruled there had been "significant failures" made by Coverage Care and Gough.

But he added: "The professional opinion of a pharmacologist was that it could not be said failure to give medication caused the death. The failures of the company and Alison Gough did not cause Mr Wootton's death, but the failures did expose him to significant risk which could have been fatal."

Speaking after the hearing Diane Edwards, one of Mr Wootton's three daughters, said: "Moving Dad into a nursing home was a hard decision to make. But his partner fell ill and was hospitalised and we found ourselves with no other choice but to find emergency respite care, so he was admitted to Coton Hill House.

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"After a lot of consideration we decided it would be ideal to get Dad a permanent place at the home as we didn't want to disrupt or confuse him with a further move, and he'd made a few friends already. We thought he'd be safe at Coton Hill House.

"The last 12 months has taken its toll on us all. Funeral arrangements are hard enough on their own but the added stress of an inquest and a criminal investigation with court hearings a year on has been difficult to cope with.

"We hope this case prompts other care home operators and managers to review their medicine management systems to ensure vulnerable people are kept safe."

Coverage Care runs 14 care homes in Shropshire, caring for more than 1,000 residents and employing more than 1,100 members of staff.

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The not-for-profit organisation has an annual turnover of £22 million and cash reserves of £2.5 million, the court was told.

Speaking about the latest case involving Mr Wootton, Coverage Care chief executive David Coull said: "First and foremost we would wish to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Mr Wootton's family and friends, from the directors, managers and staff of Coverage Care.

"Coverage Care deeply regrets the medication issues that gave rise to this case. As soon as the issue was identified we promptly reported it ourselves to the CQC, fully co-operated with their investigation and accepted responsibility. As an organisation that does not exist to make a profit, only to care to the best of its ability for hundreds of people on a daily basis, we have also taken huge steps to improve our systems.

"We have done this to a point where we are as confident as it is possible to be that this cannot and will not happen again and we are grateful to the judge for recognising that, as well as acknowledging in court that this is a well-run company providing a valuable service to the community."

The prosecution was brought against the company and its former employee by the Care Quality Commission. Deb Holland, head of adult social care inspection for the CQC in the central region, said inspectors were "shocked".

She said: "We appreciate how distressing this has been for Mr Wootton's family and, like them, hope this case prompts other care home operators and managers to review their medicine management systems to better ensure people's safety.

"It is vital that care services accurately record the medicines people are given and that, when these run out, they make every effort to replenish stocks to ensure people continue to receive the right treatment and are not left at risk of harm.

"It was the serious and repeated failures in the home's management of medicines that led to CQC's prosecution of the provider and the home's registered manager.

"As the registered provider and home's manager, Coverage Care Services Limited and Alison Gough had a specific legal duty to ensure care and treatment was provided in a safe way. Following Mr Wootton's death we found they had failed to do this by not ensuring medicines were managed in a safe way."

Earlier this year, Coverage Care was fined £10,000 after the death of Phyllis Jones, a pensioner who died at Westlands Care Home in Wem in 2013 after falling on a bed lever. The lever had been brought into the home by her family because she had previously found it useful in her own home. In that case, the company admitted two charges of failing to implement measures that were reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of the 90-year-old while she was a resident.

After the case, Coverage Care said the tragedy had been acted upon.

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