Care home patients left to suffer

Pangbourne Residential Care Home.
Pangbourne Residential Care Home.

ELDERLY patients were left to suffer during a shocking catalogue of failings at a care home.

A probe at Pangbourne Care Home in Hartlepool’s West Park by inspectors found care fell “well short” of expected standards where residents were not even cleaned or fed properly.

Inspectors also uncovered incidents where claims of mistreatment of patients was never investigated, medication wasn’t handed out properly and new staff had not undergone criminal records checks before they started work.

Care home owner, psychiatrist Samarendra Mahapatra has been suspended by a medical panel after admitting the systematic failings in the home - but will be free to practice again in six months.

The hearing by the General Medical Council followed two probes by inspectors which saw the home eventually closed with 15 workers losing their jobs.

Inspections showed there was a risk of cross infection due to a lack of hygiene, medication was poorly managed, food was inadequate and there were few activities to stimulate residents.

Two residents with diabetes also had their blood sugars infrequently monitored by staff who lacked experience and were not properly trained to work at the home, which catered for people aged between 40 and 60 who had mental health needs.

The home closed in June 2009 after Hartlepool Borough Council and independent investigators raised “serious concerns”.

Its owner, Dr Samarendra Mahapatra, who was a consultant psychiatrist with the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust between August 2004 and December 2009, has now taken the blame for the failings at a misconduct hearing.

On top of “not ensuring the wellbeing of the residents of the home” he also “misled” the trust in June 2009 by telling bosses there were no serious issues he was aware of at the home.

The GMC’s Fitness to Practise Panel ruled that Dr Mahapatra, who lives in Wynyard Village, should be suspended from practising for six months.

He now has 28 days to appeal the suspension before the ban begins.

A council spokesman said: “The council takes the safety and wellbeing of people living in care homes seriously and it was our view that the level of care provided by Dr Mahapatra fell well short of the standards expected.

“We did provide evidence to the General Medical Council and are pleased with the outcome.”

A spokeswoman for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust added: “Although this case against Dr Mahapatra wasn’t related to his clinical position at the trust, we expect the highest professional standards from our staff.

“Our primary concern is always for the safety of our patients and if concerns are raised against an employee, our procedures would be followed. Dr Mahapatra no longer works at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.”

The Mail reported how trouble shooters were brought in to run the private care home two years ago after a council probe uncovered “serious concerns” about the care given to vulnerable residents.

The privately-run home, in Park Avenue, was investigated by independent assessors before local authority staff carried out their own visit and came back with similar opinions.

As a result of those concerns, a team of council staff were drafted in to work alongside existing staff already in the home.

The council also notified Care Quality Commission, the regulatory body for care homes in England.

Two residents moved out almost immediately while 10 more, whose ages ranged from 40 up to over 60, remained in the home, which could cater for up to 17.

But they were forced to move out a few weeks later as the home closed with 15 workers losing their jobs.

The “misleading” charge relating to the trust came to light after he admitted one of his patients to the home in June 2008, but did not transfer them to a different consultant psychiatrist until a month later.

It was ruled as a conflict of interest between his role as a consultant psychiatrist with the trust and as proprietor of the home.