A CORONER has identified serious failures in the care of a Northumberland subpostmistress who died after falling from a bed at a home.
North Northumberland coroner Tony Brown yesterday highlighted shortcomings in the treatment of Eileen McEwan, 80, at the care home in Morpeth where she suffered the fatal fall.
At the conclusion of a two-day inquest, Mr Brown ruled staff at the home had failed by raising Mrs McEwan’s bed prior to the incident.
He also said they had been wrong to call a doctor’s surgery and not an ambulance following the fall. Finally, the coroner said workers had erred by lifting Mrs McEwan on to the bed after the incident.
Last night, Mrs McEwan’s son said he felt let down by the home’s management.
Yet bosses at the site insisted three investigations showed they had “followed the correct care guidelines” in the case.
The inquest, at Wansbeck Business Park in Ashington, had heard how Mrs McEwan had been a resident at Terravis Park care home in Morpeth.
The hearing was told how on the morning of November 12, 2009, she fell while trying to get into bed, sustaining fractures to her wrist and femur.
Mrs McEwan was taken to Wansbeck where she underwent hip surgery on November 14.
However, she soon developed a cough which turned into bronchopneumonia.
Mrs McEwan died as a result of the illness in the early hours of November 21.
However, Mr Brown, recording a narrative verdict, yesterday concluded the fall “did play a part” in Mrs McEwan’s death as the fractured femur caused immobility which made her more susceptible to the fatal complaint.
The coroner also found three serious failures in the care of Mrs McEwan.
He ruled senior carer Stephanie Wilson had left Mrs McEwan’s bed in an elevated position, moments before she fell while trying to get into it.
Furthermore, Mr Brown said staff had failed by phoning a doctor’s surgery instead of an ambulance after the fall, even though Mrs McEwan was in obvious pain and in need of such care immediately.
Finally, the coroner said workers had been wrong to lift Mrs McEwan back on the bed, saying they should have left her where she was comfortable until the ambulance arrived.
Mr Brown nevertheless accepted that staff had been misguided and in need of better training rather than motivated by malice.
Speaking after the verdict, Mrs McEwan’s son Maurice, a 60-year-old self-employed builder, of Oakford, Scot’s Gap, hit out at home bosses, Tyneside-based Kay Care Services.
He said: “Placing my mother into the care of others was a difficult decision for me to make.
“I relied on Kay Care Services to provide a safe and caring environment for her which included providing suitable people to provide that care.
“I feel especially let down by the home’s management.”
Chris Kay, director of Kay Care, said: “The coroner’s verdict is disappointing and we strongly disagree with some of the inferences he has drawn in his closing statement.
“Terravis Park is committed to the provision of high-quality care and adhering to appropriate care standards.
“Following the death of Mrs McEwan, we launched our own investigations into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“Northumberland County Council and the Care Quality Commission also conducted separate inquiries into the care provided by us.
“All investigations found that Terravis Park followed the correct care guidelines in this case.
“The member of staff responsible for the care of Mrs McEwan when the incident occurred did not fully follow our own care guidelines and left our employment shortly after we started disciplinary proceedings, subsequent to our internal investigations.
“We are committed to making sure our residents receive high-quality care while at Terravis Park.
“That is why all our care home workers are regularly provided with extensive training to ensure that they are fully aware of how to respond and act accordingly.
“If further improvements can be made, we will make them.
“Our deepest sympathies are with Mrs McEwan’s family.”
Mrs McEwan was born and brought up in Dorset, moving to the Morpeth area after the Second World War. There she met her late husband Ridley in 1950.
She worked as a bus conductor before becoming subpostmistress at Longwitton. Her only son Maurice described her as a “tremendous family person”.