'Nobody could say goodbye and that hurts'

Police investigation into Covid outbreak care home ends without criminal charges, but regulator could still prosecute

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By Sarah Ward

A police investigation into a Northants nursing home where more than a dozen residents died in a Covid-19 outbreak has ended without any criminal charges being brought.

However Amicura Ltd, which ran Temple Court in Kettering could still find itself prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission as the regulator has launched an investigation into standards of care at the now closed home.  

At least 15 residents died with Covid-19 between April and May during the first wave of the virus. Mikhail Waskiw, 91, of Roade and Roy Hunt, 83, of Kettering were among those who died.

When CQC inspectors went into the home in Albert Street on May 12 last year they found many residents were malnourished and a report by the regulator published after the visit slammed the care company as providing ‘degrading treatment’ to its residents.

The regulator shut the doors of the care home on May 15 - with surviving residents transferred to other care homes across the county.

Northants Police began its investigation in June with detectives speaking to grieving families and questioning the care company to establish whether any of the deaths were a criminal matter.

In a statement issued to NN Journal a force spokesman said: “Seven months ago, Northamptonshire Police were called in to investigate a number of concerns raised by the county council relating to the standard of care provided at the Temple Court Care Home in Kettering. 

“These centred upon identifying if any offences may have been committed in line with Section 21 of the Criminal Justice & Courts Act 2015. 

“Our investigation has now concluded and, as such, no further action will be taken by Northamptonshire Police. That decision has also been relayed to both the families concerned and the Care Quality Commission.”

Amicura Ltd, which is part of Minster Care, insists problems at the home were due to the impact of the pandemic - as the home became overwhelmed by the virus. They say this was in part due to the NHS and local authority discharging patients from hospitals into the home. When the pandemic hit the local hospitals undertook a mass discharge effort and in Northamptonshire 235 patients were transferred into care homes to free up beds. It is unclear whether the residents were tested for the virus.

A spokesman for Temple Court said they would now welcome an independent inquiry into what happened during those fateful lockdown weeks.

“We cooperated fully with the police investigation and we welcome the decision to take no further action.

 “Our priority has always been the wellbeing of our residents and giving them the best care possible. The home was left in an extremely challenging position after a sudden influx of residents from the NHS in late March – some of whom had very complex needs – and a subsequent outbreak of Covid-19.

 “A large number of staff, including the home manager and senior team, were absent due to the virus and we were left disproportionately reliant on the use of agency staff. We sought assistance from the local authority and NHS NENE CCG when it became clear to us that the home could no longer cope.

“The CQC inspected on 12th May – when care was being directed by the local authority and NHS NENE CCG – and 13th May when the home was completely empty.

 “A previous inspection by NHS NENE CCG on 23rd January gave the home an overall score of 92 per cent – including scores of 100 per cent in nutrition and hydration, safeguarding, infection prevention and control, medication management, prevention of falls, access to primary care, staffing, and staff training. All of these were rated as inadequate by the CQC less than four months later.

 “We would welcome an independent inquiry that sought to identify all of the factors that led to such a sudden deterioration of standards at Temple Court.”

Roy Hunt’s widow Kay is disappointed police won’t be taking action. She had concerns about her husband’s care in the months before the pandemic began and is still extremely upset she was not able to say goodbye. After the pandemic hit, the care home closed its doors in mid March and Kay did not see her husband of 64 years again before he died on April 19. The last time she spoke to him was by phone.

She said: “His last words to me were ‘I’m tired’. That was on the Sunday, and then when I called the other days I was told he had a chest infection. He went into the hospital on the Thursday and died on the Sunday.

“I’m sure all the families who have lost their nan, or their mum or husband at Temple Court must be feeling very, very bitter. Nobody could say goodbye and that hurts.

“We’re still suffering. We have still got to have our family get together to say cheerio.”

Simon Bennett, whose dad Ron was one of the survivors, says questions remain about the NHS and local authority’s handling of the situation and wonders why they were not mentioned in the CQC report.

He says: “The council had been running that home for three weeks before it closed. The NHS and local authority need to acknowledge that mistakes were made.”

The CQC could prosecute under the health and social care act.

A spokesman said: “CQC is investigating the care that people received at Temple Court, Kettering.

 “Although the home formally closed in August 2020, it had no residents from May 2020 – when people were transferred to other services by the local authority. This was because the care the home provided to people, at that time, was unsafe.

 “Details of any action that CQC takes as a result of its investigation will be published as soon as legal restrictions allow.”