'People ill-treated my son and they're still free' - mum's anguish
- Credit: Supplied courtesy of Ben King's family
The heartbroken mother of a young man with Down's Syndrome who died while he was supposed to be being cared for at a private hospital has said his death was a scandal.
And Gina Egmore, whose 32-year-old son Ben King was among three patients who died while in the care of the Cawston Park hospital, near Aylsham, said people who ill-treated animals went to prison, yet those who ill-treated her son remained free.
As the serious case review into the deaths was published, she spoke of the devastating moment when she had to agree doctors should switch off her son's life support machine.
Ms Egmore, who lives in Aylsham, said: "Ben was a quick-witted and bright boy. He used to love his dogs and chickens and wearing his designer clothes. His death was a scandal.
Ms Egmore had looked after her son for more than 30 years. But after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, her son went into respite care and was then sectioned and placed in Cawston Park.
She said: "I will never forget how they took him off a bus and his head was slumped to his chest.
"Other residents were making horrendous noises and I was frightened and thought, what was this place? When I visited, they put me in a six foot by six foot waiting room and wouldn’t let me onto the ward.
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"They brought Ben down and he was covered in cuts and very unhappy.
"They used to let me take him out with support from Mencap but then it suddenly stopped and I could see him going within himself.
"The hospital took him off his medication and within days, Ben was unrecognisable. I started to fear him. His whole body was trembling and he looked like he could kill me.
"I felt powerless. They were restraining him and wrestling him to the floor. It was devastating to see that.
"Eventually, he wouldn’t come off the unit to meet the Mencap staff who were meant to be working with him.
"I was appalled that they gave him a razor with other patients around. He shaved off his eyebrows. I complained but nothing was done.
"It was a hospital, not a prison – but they stopped me from visiting on Mondays."
She said her son collapsed in the gym and complained about a pain in his side.
Ms Egmore said: "I said he wasn’t well but the staff said he was putting it on, so he could have a trip out with me to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
"I reported this to the social worker and they reported it to the Care Quality Commission.
"The Mencap support was then stopped and Ben was devastated. Every time I visited, I could see he was getting bigger and bigger."
She said her son caught Covid, yet recovered. But she was worried staff were not putting him on the machine used to help his sleep apnoea.
Ms Egmore said: "When lockdown lifted, I was allowed back in there. Ben was complaining about the pain in his side again. I noticed his lips were blue. They wouldn’t call for an ambulance.
"I reported it to the social worker and she reported it again – and still nothing happened.
"Ben had been to hospital three times by July last year and I was getting concerned. Then I was told he had been moved to the Lodge, which was a secure unit on the same site."
When she visited on July 28 last year, she was horrified.
She said: "He was gasping and couldn’t talk. His hands and lips were blue. He was rocking back and forth. It turned out the GP was called out the previous night and they didn’t call me.
"He pleaded with me to take him home. I wish I had put him in the car then. I drove off. That was the last time I saw Ben alive."
The following day, the doctor rang to say he was in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Ms Egmore said: "By the time I’d got there, he was brain dead. I had to turn my baby’s machines off. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
"Ben was my reason to live. I later saw the CCTV from the night before. It showed staff mistreating him and leaving him to die.
"This has got to stop. There are other homes like this. This mustn’t happen to anyone else.
"If you ill-treated an animal, you get put in prison. But people ill-treated my son and they’re still free."
Jeesal Group are being contacted for comment.
The company had previously said said standards of care “declined rapidly” as Covid put a strain on the hospital.
They had apologised and said one of the carers seen on CCTV had been sacked for "entirely unacceptable" action.