When ill-health forced war veteran David Jones to move into a care home, there seemed no better place than one owned by the Royal British Legion. But what Mr Jones suffered over the next 12 months has been condemned by his family as ‘simply inexcusable’, and led to a five-figure out-of-court settlement this week.
Mr Jones, then 88 and suffering from dementia and diabetes, was admitted to hospital nine times during his time at Lister House in Ripon, North Yorkshire, and underwent surgery to amputate two toes.
He needed treatment for infections, blood poisoning, pressure sores and hypoglycemic attacks.
His son John became so concerned about the standard of care at Lister House and Harrogate District Hospital that he instructed specialist medical lawyers to investigate.
Inquiries revealed ‘many instances of negligent care’ and treatment which fell ‘short of an acceptable standard’.
Mr Jones, who served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, died of natural causes last year aged 91. He had been moved to a BUPA nursing home in Harrogate and nursed back to health without suffering further injuries.
Mr Jones left one son and six grandchildren. The family pursued the legal claim because they wanted assurances that care had been improved to prevent unnecessary suffering in future.
His son John, 51, from Harrogate, said: ‘You would think it would be ship-shape, like a military operation, but it was a disgrace to the British Royal Legion that this happened. We are so disappointed, it was just run like a circus.’
He said his father had always been a smart man who wore a shirt and tie. But after a few weeks he began looking dishevelled and ‘alarm bells began ringing’ when he started to go in and out of hospital.
‘He was just a total mess. He was unshaven, he wasn’t washed. When you entered his room the stench of rotten flesh hit you in the face. On numerous occasions I found him sitting in his own faeces on the bed.’
Mr Jones found his father’s dressing soaked through with blood and ‘gunk’ and dripping on the floor.
He called a nurse, who told him they were ‘waiting for medical supplies’ and left without changing the dressing. He said that when his father was admitted to hospital, medical staff realised he was dehydrated. From his condition, they assumed he had been living on his own.
Pocket money left for Mr Jones in his bedroom regularly went missing and the care home staff appeared disinterested.
‘No one cared or did anything about it. My father had no dignity and the care he was given was terrible.’
Lister House is part of the British Legion’s network of six Poppy Homes nationwide and admission is usually limited to Armed Forces veterans or their dependants.
Inquiries by lawyers Irwin Mitchell revealed Mr Jones’s pressure sore management was poor; there were delays in referring him for medical and diet assessments regarding ‘erratic and dangerously fluctuating blood glucose readings’; inspections and assessments were not carried out; and nursing records were ‘incomplete’.
He started living at the home in August 2008 and by July 2009 had been admitted to Harrogate District Hospital seven times for treatment to a variety of problems.
Mr Jones also twice needed surgery at York General Hospital to amputate two toes.
Exact details of the payout have not been disclosed and there was no formal admission of liability.
The Harrogate & District NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘The trust takes patient safety extremely seriously and reviews all cases such as this to see what opportunities there are to learn from them.’
A Royal British Legion spokesman said: ‘The quality of care at Legion homes is consistently high, and our staff work hard to deliver this standard of service to all residents.’