Dorothy (84) died after freezing night outside care home

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AN ELDERLY woman died after spending a freezing night outside the care home where she lived.

Dorothy Spicer (84), of Market Deeping, was found lying outside Whitefriars Care Home in St George’s Avenue, Stamford, in the early hours of November 26, 2009.

At an inquest into her death at Stamford Town Hall on Tuesday, a jury heard that Mrs Spicer, who was known as Mick, was found by night staff at the home and taken to a hospital in Peterborough.

She was diagnosed with hypothermia and given antibiotics.

On December 15 she was moved to Stamford Hospital where she developed pneumonia and died on January 21, 2010.

Giving evidence, Mrs Spicer’s daughter Jane Howard described the difference in her mother’s condition before and after she was found outside the care home.

Mrs Howard said before her mother was able to walk between her room and the lounge without assistance.

She had a “wicked sense of humour” and was able to hold a conversation despite her dementia.

Mrs Howard said she drove to Peterborough on November 26 to see her mother and noted the outside temperature was -1c.

She added: “She had the look in her eyes of a petrified animal. It was shocking to imagine my mother had spent a night outside.”

Mrs Howard told the jury she thought rules or guidelines had been broken and staff at Whitefriars had let her mother down.

The inquest also heard from Patricia Woods, who worked at the care home for 24 years before leaving in 2011.

Mrs Woods was a care leader in November 2010, but was not on duty at the time Mrs Spicer was found.

She told the jury external doors were locked and alarmed and staff would be alerted via pagers and wall-mounted displays if a door was opened.

Mrs Woods said if a door was found open a search of the immediate area would be carried out, followed by a headcount.

The jury heard from engineer Graham Burrows, of nurse call system manufacturer Courtney-Thorne, who visited on November 30, 2009, and found no fault in the alarm system.

He said computer logs showed an alarm had been deactivated on one of the external doors at 8.52pm on November 25 and was not reactivated until 9.19pm.

The inquest heard from Prof Guy Rutty who carried out the post mortem and concluded Mrs Spicer died from pneumonia brought on by the lack of mobility caused by the night spent outside.

But Dr Adam Coumbe, who produced a report based on Mrs Spicer’s medical notes, said the pneumonia had nothing to do with hypothermia.

Dr Coumbe said he thought a lack of mobility was caused by a sudden deterioration in Mrs Spicer’s dementia and this had led to her contracting the infection that killed her.

• The inquest continues