A MAN died amid a council’s “systematic failure to care for vulnerable people”, a court heard. Judge Christopher Price, sitting at Durham Crown Court, heard evidence of how epileptic John Wood, 50, a former patient at Prudhoe Hospital in Northumberland with severe learning difficulties, should always have had a carer in attendance while in the bath.
But due to a change in carer shift patterns, which was unauthorised by bosses at Durham County Council, one man was left alone to look after four vulnerable adults sharing a bungalow in Bishop Auckland, on November 12, 2006.
Susan Hirst, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, told the court Mr Wood suffered from an average of one epileptic seizure a month and had severe learning difficulties. He lived in one of 46 houses for vulnerable adults administered by Durham County Council. Ms Hirst said one carer, David Raper, was left alone to care for all four residents of the bungalow shortly before 9am, one of the busiest times of the day. She said Mr Raper left Mr Wood unattended while he went to assist another resident, and “four or five minutes later” he returned to see Mr Wood lying face down in the bath.
Despite the efforts of Mr Raper, and later of paramedics, to revive Mr Wood, he was pronounced dead at Bishop Auckland General Hospital. Cause of death was given as drowning.
Ms Hirst said: “It was vital that he (Mr Wood) was supervised at all times while bathing, but David Raper had three other residents to care for.”
She said the incident highlighted “a wholesale and systematic failure to care for vulnerable people by Durham County Council.”
David Travers, representing Durham County Council, said: “It is not so long ago that people with learning difficulties were locked away from birth to death. John Wood came out of an institution to live with three other men with learning disabilities in the community with the considerable support and assistance of carers.”
Durham County Council had admitted two breaches of Health and Safety regulations at a previous hearing. Judge Price said he would pass sentence on Friday morning.