Man dies after ‘inappropriate’ meal in St Leonards care home

Southdowns Nursing Home
Southdowns Nursing Home

TWO nurses left an 80-year-old man to choke to death on a piece of sausage after failing to resuscitate him, a hearing was told.

Patrick Wilson-Canning and Maureen Harper allowed the Alzheimer’s patient at Southdowns Nursing Home in St Leonards, to eat the ‘inappropriate’ meal of bangers and mash unsupervised, the Nursing and Midwifery Council heard this week.

It is alleged that after he was discovered slumped in his chair, the pair did not follow instructions from an ambulance controller to resuscitate him.

After struggling to gain access to the home paramedics fought in vain to save the pensioner, who was later found to have choked on a sausage lodged in his windpipe.

Wilson-Canning was deputy manager of the home at the time and Harper was then working there as a nurse.

David Clark, for the NMC, said the pair decided to call an ambulance after a healthcare assistant found the patient slumped in his chair. Wilson-Canning and Harper were the two registered nurses on duty at the home, which cares for elderly patients with mental health difficulties.

Mr Clark said: “He (patient A) suffered from a variety of health conditions – he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and he wore dentures.

“Having said that, he did have a degree of independence.

“His care plan required at the time to be provided with appropriate meals but with the intention he should be encouraged to feed himself so far as he was able to do so.”

A day earlier, patient A, who was not on pureed food, had been seen by a doctor over a problem with swallowing, but both nurses had allegedly failed to update his care plan to reflect this.

“On the day in question, it seems that there was a problem with the kitchen staff, and that resulted in the two registrants preparing lunch of behalf of the residents,” said Mr Clark.

“Undertaking those kitchen duties was effectively to leave the home unsupervised.”

Harper is said to have prepared an ‘inappropriate meal’ of bangers and mash, given the patient’s swallowing difficulties which she was aware of.

“After his collapse, we say that both of the registrants then failed to provide him with appropriate first aid,” said Mr Clark.

Both had failed to follow instructions from an emergency services operator who took a 999 call from the home, and spoke to both nurses, the hearing was told.

“There was a failure to examine thoroughly his mouth and airways, there was no attempt to resuscitate him after his collapse,’ said Mr Clark.

The pair had also failed to ensure there was someone to let in paramedics, who struggled to gain access to the building and then to find the room where patient A had been taken, the panel heard.

Wilson-Canning and Harper face a series of charges against them resulting from the incident on 10 December 2005, including failing to update patient A’s care plan when it was apparent he had difficulty swallowing, a sore throat and had refused breakfast.

The pair are also accused of failing to perform adequate basic life support to patient A

Harper alone is charged with providing an inappropriate meal for Patient A in light of the fact that he had a sore throat and had difficulty swallowing and not ensuring he was observed whilst eating his meal in accordance with his care plan.

If their fitness to practise is found to be impaired by reason of misconduct they could be struck off.

The incident at the nursing home on The Green was investigated by police but no charges were brought against the pair.

An inquest later ruled the pensioner had suffered an accidental death caused by neglect, though no one person was to blame.

Wilson-Canning, of Grange Court Drive, Bexhill, has previously complained he was made a scapegoat for the incident.

The married nurse said he was forced to abandon his career of 35 years after leaving the Southdowns Nursing home two months after the death of the pensioner.

He claimed he was given a reference that said he might be guilty of manslaughter, and has been waiting for six years to clear his name after the incident.

The hearing continues.