Halifax care home pair go to jail over ‘deliberate neglect’

The Elm View Nursing Home, Halifax
The Elm View Nursing Home, Halifax
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A JUDGE has today jailed the former owner and manager of a Halifax nursing home where four vulnerable residents were the victims of deliberate neglect.

Structural engineer Philip Bentley and Faheza Simpson, an experienced nurse, were both sentenced to 12 months in prison over their lack of care for elderly residents who developed pressure sores while at staying at the Elm View home on Huddersfield Road in 2011.

Widower Bentley, 65, of Woodthorpe Drive, Wakefield, and married mum Simpson, 49, of Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, were found guilty last week after a jury at Bradford Crown Court heard weeks of evidence about under-staffing and a lack of resources at the home.

Bentley was convicted on three neglect charges relating to three women aged 78, 81 and 85.

Simpson was found guilty on those charges as well as a further neglect offence relating to a 68-year-old man who developed a serious pressure sore after being at the home for a week’s respite care.

A police investigation were launched in October 2011 after officers and a team of NHS nurses went into the home and found one elderly woman lying in a urine-soaked bed.

Today Judge Jonathan Rose branded the home’s manager Simpson a liar and bully and said Bentley had put saving money over the welfare of elderly and vulnerable patients.

Jailing the pair Judge Rose highlighted fundamental failures at the home including inadequate record-keeping, insufficient cleaning materials, a lack of regular turning and toileting for at-risk residents and the provision of vital equipment such as pressure-relieving mattresses.

A lack of basic materials such as wipes meant that staff used the residents’ own underwear to clean them and one woman was left wearing the same incontinence pad for 13 hours.

The court heard that Ian Ball was hospitalised after suffering a serious pressure sore during his one-week stay at the home, but after his wife Janet made a complaint about his care Bentley tried to cover up the neglect.

Judge Rose said Bentley hid Mr Ball’s file, asked Simpson to get a nurse to make a dishonest statement and also submitted a dishonest report about his care.

‘’It follows that from that point on at the latest you were both on notice that care standards at Elm View were so poor as to require immediate and urgent action and yet you together wilfully and deliberately failed to take that action,’’ the judge said.

‘’Indeed you demonstrated, as we have seen in this case, a willingness then as there is now to lie to cover up the awful reality of what was going on as you lied in the reports you were required to make by regulations to the authorities.’’

Judge Rose said the home was woefully understaffed as a result of Simpson’s bullying manner which drove staff away and Bentley’s failure to recruit adequate replacements in the hope that his manager could cope.

‘’I am satisfied that she could not and you knew that she could not and you knew that your residents would suffer as a consequence,’’ the judge told Bentley.

‘’Your motive for this is not entirely clear but I suspect financial reasons were a principle driving force.

‘’You Philip Bentley would not spend the money needed to run this home properly. You put the saving of money, perhaps your profit, over the welfare of elderly and vulnerable patients. That is simply unforgivable and itself worthy of condign punishment.’’

The judge said Bentley and his late wife had bought Elm View as a business proposition, but he suspected that by 2011 Bentley’s had lost interest in it.

‘’But a home is not like stocks and share. It cannot be bought and used only as a means of collecting dividends and profits to be cashed in when the profit will be at its greatest,’’ the judge told Bentley.

‘’It is not just bricks and mortar. It is a gathering of humans whether management, staff or crucially residents.’’

The judge told the pair that the prison sentences would be hard for each of them bearing in mind their previous impeccable characters but the suffering they had caused meant they too had to suffer.

‘’The punishment I impose is also intended to send out the message that those who are entrusted with the care of vulnerable people, in this case the elderly, infirm and unable to speak out or otherwise look after themselves, have a duty under the criminal law to achieve a high and proper standard of care and to maintain that system in every respect at all times,’’ added Judge Rose.

Simpson’s barrister Michelle Colborne QC said her client’s lack of emotion when the verdicts were returned last week was a result of her ‘’abject shock’’ because she believed she had been doing her best for the residents.

Miss Colborne said Simpson had been ‘’running up sand’’ at the home as she battled against a lack of resources and with hindsight she should have either blown the whistle herself or resigned.

Bentley’s barrister Sam Green said the court process had taken a huge toll on his client whose wife died from a stroke last year shortly after receiving a summons herself.

‘’He’s lost his wife, his business and his reputation. In my submission he doesn’t also need to lose his liberty immediately,’’ said Mr Green.

But Judge Rose said he was unable to avoid the conclusion that custodial sentences were called for although he accepted that prison terms could not compensate the families of the victims for their suffering.

Calderdale Council has announced a Serious Case Review at Elm View.