Care home staff cleared of neglect after patient’s death

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CARE home staff accused of neglecting an elderly resident who died of dehydration have been cleared after the case against them collapsed.

Staff at the Adderley Nursing Home at Long Sutton were alleged to have failed to provide enough food and water to 82-year-old widow Edna Barnes.

During the trial the jury at Lincoln Crown Court was told that Mrs Barnes, a mother-of-eight from Sutton Bridge, suffered from senile dementia and was entirely reliant on her carers to feed her.

Felicity Gerry, prosecuting, said that records kept by the home showed that Mrs Barnes received as little as one-tenth of the amount of food and liquid required by an adult woman.

She claimed staff at the home were more interested in preparing for Christmas than looking after patients.

But during the trial two care workers told the jury how staff were often too busy to record food and drink given to patients and that the figures in the home records would did not reflect the amount of sustenance received by patients.

Karen Gostick, in evidence, said: “I am confident there was always someone to help Edna to eat her meals and to encourage her to eat and drink. We could encourage her to eat but we were not allowed to force her to.”

And a second care worker, Zoe Greenwood, who was related to Mrs Barnes, told the jury: “We all did all that we could. Edna did not want very much. She was very hard to feed but we tried. It was hard work.”

After Ms Greenwood finished her evidence the prosecution requested an adjournment and when the court resumed Miss Gerry offered no evidence against each of the four defendants.

All four were then formally acquitted by the jury on the directions of Judge Sean Morris.

Miss Gerry said that the diagnosis of wilful neglect was based on the assumption that figures in the home records being accurate.

She said “The prosecution cannot be sure that the only reason for the dehydration was neglect.

“We cannot ask a jury to be sure that what happened was as a result of the actions of the nursing staff.”

Judge Morris told the jury “If there was a failure it may have been a failure not to employ enough staff. The owners of the home would be responsible for that.

“It is very clear from the evidence you have heard that everyone working at the home did everything they could.”

The former care home manager Joy Byfield (39), of Henniker Gardens, East Ham, London, the former assistant manager Jane Allen (39), of Eastgate, Fleet, staff nurse Paul Shepherd (44), of Swapcoat Lane, Long Sutton, and nurse Jenieve Caesar (57), of High Street, Hornchurch, Essex, all denied wilful neglect of a person who lacks mental capacity between December 14 and 28, 2008.

Mrs Barnes spent 12 days at Adderley before being admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, where she died on December 31, 2008.