Care home manager expresses regret during inquest into death of Dorothy Spicer

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AN ELDERLY woman died after spending a freezing night outside the care home where she lived, an inquest heard.

Dorothy Spicer, 84, was found lying outside Whitefriars Care Home in St George’s Avenue, Stamford, in the early hours of November 26, 2009. It is believed she wandered outside sometime the previous evening.

The inquest into her death opened at Stamford Town Hall on Tuesday.

The jury heard that Mrs Spicer, who was known as Mick and who used to live in Godsey Lane, Market Deeping, was found by night staff at the home and was taken to Peterborough District Hospital. She was diagnosed with hypothermia and was given antibiotics to deal with a possible chest infection.

On December 15 she was moved to the John Van Geest Ward at Stamford Hospital where she developed pneumonia. She died at the hospital on January 21, 2010.

Today (Thursday) the home’s manager, Agnes Grummit, told the jury a number of security checks had not been made on the night Mrs Spicer was found outside.

The inquest had earlier heard that carer Louise Baldwin had found an external door off its latch while making her rounds that evening.

According to computer records the door had triggered an alarm at 8.52pm which was reset at 9.19pm.

Mrs Grummit, who had gone home sick at about lunchtime on November 25, told the jury that Mrs Baldwin should have reported the incident to her seniors.

Mrs Grummit also said there “absolutely” should have been a check to make sure all residents were accounted for after the door alarm had been reset.

She was asked about a fire training session that had taken place that evening in the lounge where Mrs Spicer liked to sit.

The jury had earlier been told that Mrs Spicer had become distressed at one point during the training and had shouted “fire” a number of times.

Mrs Grummit said the care manager that afternoon would have arranged to do the training in that room.

She said: “I don’t know the circumstances as I wasn’t there but personally I would have looked at a quieter lounge as my first choice.

“My understanding is that there was a carer sitting with Mrs Spicer holding her hand.

“I normally wouldn’t expect her to be sat there because she might be amenable to sitting in her room or another lounge.”

She also told the jury that handover sheets should have been completed by the evening shift and given to the night shift. The handover sheets were used to give a brief summary of how each resident had been treated during that shift.

The jury had earlier heard that a combination of lack of staff and fire training meant the afternoon carers did not have time to fill the sheets in.

Mrs Grummit added: “I have said to both daughters how sorry I am for the incident that caused their mother to be in the garden.”

Christine Gray was the care manager on the afternoon shift on November 25. She also gave medication training to one night shift carer until about 11pm.

The jury heard that during the time Mrs Gray was giving the training, night carer Janet Bagley had found a resident had opened an external door and was walking outside the home.

Mrs Gray told the jury she was surprised Mrs Bagley had not told her about finding a resident outside the home.

She said: “I would expect to be told about that. I am not aware a written report was filed about it.”

Mrs Gray said she was surprised none of the night shift carers had noticed Mrs Spicer’s bedroom light through the window above her door. The light was on when her room was found to be empty at about 5am.

At the time Whitefriars was split into a 36-bed main section and a secure 20-bed dementia unit.

Mrs Gray also told the jury the three carers on the afternoon shift in the main section had left at 9.30pm without filling in the handover sheets for the night shift.

Carer Sue Booth told the jury she spent most of the night shift working in the secure dementia unit of the home, but came to help when Mrs Spicer was found outside.

Mrs Booth said she had cleaned dirt out of Mrs Spicer’s mouth and helped remove her wet clothes and put her in her bed.

Mrs Booth also said she had expressed concern about the lack of pagers available to staff at a meeting with Mrs Grummit about three weeks before November 25.

The pagers are connected to the external door alarms and also alert staff if a resident calls for assistance.

Mrs Grummit later told the jury she regularly replaced or repaired pagers and had not known at the time that only two were available.

The inquest is expected to conclude tomorrow (Friday) when the jury will be asked to consider the evidence and record a verdict into how Mrs Spicer died.