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‘I blame care home for my mother’s death’ - Daughter of woman who died of hypothermia and pneumonia speaks out

PUBLISHED: 09:05 19 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:19 19 December 2018

Doreen Osborne was found in “a severely hypothermic state” after her home had been without central heating for three weeks as temperatures plunged below freezing. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE

Doreen Osborne was found in “a severely hypothermic state” after her home had been without central heating for three weeks as temperatures plunged below freezing. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE

Archant

A 95-year-old woman who died of hypothermia and pneumonia told her daughter she was “freezing” and had not had a shower for three weeks at her failing £500-a-week care home.

Doreen Osborne, 95, died of hypothermia at her care home in High Kelling, Norfolk. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICEDoreen Osborne, 95, died of hypothermia at her care home in High Kelling, Norfolk. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE

Doreen Osborne was found with her temperature 9C below normal after her she had been left without central heating and vital medicine for three weeks at Pine Heath care home in High Kelling near Holt.

This newspaper reported on Sunday how organisations which should have scrutinised the measures the home was taking to keep its residents warm were slow to act and carry out checks.

But now her daughter Susan Sampson, 73, of High Kelling, said: “I blame the care home for her death.”

Emergency services rushed the pensioner to hospital after finding her in “a severely hypothermic state” and it was revealed the two boilers at the property dated back to the 1960s and had not been replaced since one failed two years previously, despite being condemned in 2013.

Doreen Osborne was found in “a severely hypothermic state” after her home had been without central heating for three weeks as temperatures plunged below freezing. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICEDoreen Osborne was found in “a severely hypothermic state” after her home had been without central heating for three weeks as temperatures plunged below freezing. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE

Conditions in the home were so dire a second ambulance crew was sent to check other residents.

Mrs Sampson said: “She was without proper heating for three weeks. The boilers were very old and they should have been replaced years ago.

“My mother told me that the boilers were broken and she was complaining that she was cold all the time. She did not have a shower or get her hair washed for the whole three weeks.

“She was depressed about it, and would say: ‘I am freezing. I don’t know what to do with myself’.

Doreen Osborne, 95, death from hypothermia after failure of boilers at her care home in High Kelling, Norfolk. Picture: East Anglia News ServiceDoreen Osborne, 95, death from hypothermia after failure of boilers at her care home in High Kelling, Norfolk. Picture: East Anglia News Service

“I kept on going into the office to ask what was happening and they kept saying that they were going to get it fixed. Then there were excuses about parts being missing.

“They said they had heaters, but I only saw a small portable blower on the day she died.

“The window in her room had its catch broken by a resident with dementia about six months previously. It was repaired but it never shut properly after that. There was a one inch gap where it was open at the bottom so there was a constant draught.”

Mrs Sampson said her mother, who was divorced, had been paying £500 a week to live at Pine Heath, using money from the sale of her former home in Wimbledon south London.

Pineheath care home in High Kelling, near Holt, Norfolk. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICEPineheath care home in High Kelling, near Holt, Norfolk. Picture: EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE

She added: “I asked her numerous times if she wanted to move, but she said that she had friends there and liked the people. But it began to change when they lost a lot of the staff and had to use more agency staff.”

Mrs Osborne died on November 9, 2016 but just a day before was diagnosed as having a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics by a GP.

But staff at the home faxed her prescription to the wrong chemist which meant the drugs were never delivered.

Staff dialled 999 after becoming concerned about Mrs Osborne at 5.35am the following morning.

A report from the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board said that her condition had deteriorated rapidly, possibly exasperated by the absence of medication.

And paramedics noted the home was “extremely cold”, the report said. One resident was said to be so cold that they had to be wrapped in a blanket so that a GP could extract a blood sample.

The care home owner and manager were interviewed on suspicion of manslaughter by gross neglect, but the Crown Prosecution Service’s complex case unit decided to take no action against them.

The report revealed that the Care Quality Commission had requested the police files on the case and was still considering a possible prosecution under the Health and Social Care Act.

The home which was said to be in an “old poorly-insulated building” with high ceilings and large rooms was closed down by its owner in May 2017 after Care Quality Commission inspections rated it as inadequate two months earlier.

James Bullion, executive director of Norfolk County Council adult social services, said: “The failure of this care home to adequately care for its residents and keep them safe is particularly distressing.

“We accept the recommendations of this safeguarding adult review and also share the board’s concerns that the owner of the home would not take part in this review.”

A spokeswoman for the CQC said: “We have examined what happened in this case and are working with the local authority to ensure that any lessons from the review are learned. Our sympathies are with the family of the lady who died.

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