Widow of care home manager who took his own life: 'The only reason this happened was because of Covid'

I feel my husband's death is in vain if I don’t speak out,' care home owner Helen Hough tells ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand and ITV Tonight

The daily death toll reported in the government's Covid figures are not the only lives lost during this pandemic, not by a long way.

At Gwastad Hall - a care home in Wrexham - the owner knows all too well the devastating impacts of coronavirus. She's lost residents to the disease - and her own husband to its impact.

Vernon Hough was described as the "heart" of the home.

He had never had any problems with his mental health - but after seeing so many of his residents lose their lives from Covid, Vernon took his own.

Helen Hough was told her husband's death was a result of the pressures of the pandemic. Credit: Tonight

His widow, Helen Hough, told ITV's Tonight programme: "The only reason this happened to Vernon was because of the effects of Covid."

"I feel his death's in vain if I don’t speak out," she told Tonight.

"It was very traumatic watching our patients die. I should have seen what it was doing to him. I just didn’t see it. I didn’t realise he would ever do that."

Vernon took his own life, after seeing so many of the care home residents lose theirs. Credit: Tonight

To protect themselves - and others - during those chaotic first months of the outbreak, GPs refused to enter the care home.

But only doctors can order oxygen for patients. The home tried video calls with doctors, but Helen says it proved all but impossible.

"They decided to do it remotely. That’s ideal in a city or town, but the wifi here is rubbish. So if we went into a patients room we lost the wifi signal," she said.

"None of these patients were seen by a doctor before, during or after death. They were verified by the nurses that worked here."

A memorial stone for Vernon is in place in the garden of Gwastad Hall. Credit: Tonight

Helen, a nurse, said that by the time oxygen was prescribed and delivered - some patients had already died.

"To watch these patients, they were gasping for oxygen and I couldn’t give them any relief as a nurse. I found that incredibly hard.

"For Vernon to watch it was horrendous - because we could not give them any relief."

In response to Tonight's report, the Welsh Government issued the following statement:

"This is a truly tragic case [...] Large scale testing in care homes took place across Wales in late spring following a change in scientific advice [...] PPE is also now provided free of charge."

It did not comment on the use of remote GP consultations and the subsequent delay in oxygen supplies Helen reported to Tonight.

Care Homes: The Long Year Alone - Tonight is available to watch on the ITV Hub.

If you or someone you know if struggling with your mental health, you can get help here:

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit rethink.org

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.