‘Hundreds of ants’ at Yorkshire care home as patient ate breakfast

Sowerby House care home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Sowerby House care home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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An agency nurse has told an inquest into the deaths of three elderly care home residents that she saw hundreds of ants crawling on a bedside table as another resident ate his breakfast.

Kristina Parsons was so concerned about standards at Sowerby House near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, that she walked out of the shift four hours early.

She also told coroner Michael Oakley, sitting in Northallerton, that she saw another resident covered “head to toe in very strong smelling urine”.

The 48-year-old nurse said she did not have direct dealings with any of the three men, Albert Pooley, 89, and 85-year-olds James Metcalfe and Harry Kilvington, whose inquests are being held following their deaths last year.

But she went into Mr Pooley’s room on April 28, hours after he had been admitted to hospital and found excrement in a commode and dirty wipes on the floor.

Ms Parsons told the inquest: “I went down a corridor, there was a man sat on the edge of the bed eating breakfast with the bedside table crawling in ants.

“It was not just 10 or 15, it was hundreds of them.”

She said she informed staff that the resident needed moving, but was told “he was a dirty man who needed to stay there”.

She said she was “disgusted” about the state of the commode in Mr Pooley’s room and another nurse said she would get someone to clean it up.

Ms Parsons said she feared she might lose her nursing registration if she stayed on shift and told her agency she needed to leave.

When she arrived on shift, she had been warned there was a diarrhoea outbreak but was reassured that it was safe for her to stay, despite her fearing getting an infection ahead of a planned operation.

Earlier, the coroner heard from the family of Mr Pooley, an ex-lorry driver who had dementia and other conditions.

After a serious fall at home in Thirsk where he lived with his wife Kathleen, he went to Sowerby House, weighing around nine-and-a-half stone, in December 2015.

When he died on May 1 2016 he had lost around three stone from his 5ft 6in frame.

Pathologist Dr Carl Gray told the hearing Mr Pooley showed signs of dehydration and was emaciated.

But he said that did not prove that neglect led to his death.

Mr Pooley died from a number of factors, including pneumonia, heart disease and a urinary infection and was on the end-of-life pathway, the inquest heard.

Dr Gray said Mr Metcalfe was an “elderly gentleman with chronic conditions” and was receiving palliative care.

The inquest heard Sowerby House was found to have “shortcomings” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and it is no longer operating as a nursing home, but is a residential home.

Mr Metcalfe’s GP told the hearing she found him attempting to eat fish and chips with his hands when she visited him at the home.

Dr Rachel Doswell said she saw he was sitting too far away from the plate - and the meal was “completely inappropriate” for a man with two teeth.

Paul Kelsey, a senior carer at the home, told the inquest standards have “drastically” improved.

Later, a former boss at the care home boss told the inquest that she would never take a managerial role again as it was “too stressful”.

Joanne King, who left her role last summer and is now a nurse, said ants were frequently a problem with care homes and that a handyman was sent to deal with it, then pest control were called.

She was also asked about excrement being found in Mr Pooley’s room.

The manager said night staff should have dealt with it.

“There was no excuse,” she said.

Her employers paid her three months salary and allowed her to leave without working her notice, she said.

Mr Oakley asked if she had lost control of managing the home prior to her leaving.

After a pause, she replied: “I think I tried my very best.”