Northumberland woman refuses to pay bill for father's care because it 'wasn't worth the money'

Lynne West, right, said her father Don Johnston, inset, went into a care home in September 2023 as his dementia progressed. Credit: Family photograph

A woman is refusing to pay a bill towards the cost of her father's Northumberland care home because of the poor quality of care she claims he received there.

Lynne West's father lived at Northlands in Morpeth for six months before his death in early March.

Later last month, a report from the regulator, the Care Quality Commission, rated the home as inadequate following an inspection.

Ms West says the release of that report has heightened her distress over her father, Don Johnston's time there.

"Dad had dementia and also he used to wet a lot and he was always in a wet bed and wet boxer shorts and the food was all over the floor and him," she said.

Ms West explained: "It felt terrible because we'd placed Dad into a care home to be cared for because we couldn't do it at home."

Mr Johnston's family say they began to have concerns about his care a number of weeks into his stay at Northlands.

They have shared photographs which, they say, reveal how stains and food were left on and around him.

Don Johnston's family took these pictures of him while he was in Northlands care home. Credit: Family photographs

They say another photograph shows a facial injury which happened during one of two falls which resulted in visits to hospital.

Don Johnston's family say this injury was caused by a fall several weeks after his arrival at the home. Credit: Family photograph

Mr Johnston's death, on 3 March 2024, was from natural causes.

During this time at Northlands, a large proportion of his care was paid for by Northumberland County Council.

His family has now received a bill from the authority for just over £3,700 to cover their contribution.

Ms West has told ITV Tyne Tees that she will not pay, on the grounds that her father's care "wasn't worth that money".

She said: "I am hoping that other people that go into a care home do get looked after properly for the amount of money they are having to pay."

"It's too late for my dad now because he passed away," she continued. "But I want other people not to have to go through what I've had to go through."

Lynne West lights a candle for her father at home in Morpeth. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Northlands in Morpeth is run by Parkside Care, which, according to its website, operates two other care homes in the North East.

Responding to the points raised by Ms West, Parkside Care told ITV Tyne Tees: "Hospital visits in both cases were purely precautionary, as Mr Johnston was taking blood thinning medication.

"He was swiftly discharged and returned to the care home, whose responses to his needs had been swift and appropriate.

"Mr Johnston had a nurse call bell but due to his dementia he did not consistently use it. Regular comfort checks were in place.

"Staff also tried using a pressure-sensor nurse call mat, but he would try to step over or around this, creating the greater risk of a fall due to his condition."

Northlands was inspected by a team from the Care Quality Commission in December 2023. Credit: ITV TYNE TEES

The latest Care Quality Commission report into Northlands, published last month, rated the facility - overall - as inadequate.

It is the lowest of four grades available to the CQC.

The inadequate rating puts the home into what are known as special measures, meaning it will be kept under review.

The ranking followed visits to the home by an inspection team in December 2023.

Among a range of findings, they identified:

- "People were not always protected from risk and actions to mitigate risks were not always in place. Lessons were not always learned when there had been accidents or incidents."- "People were not always supported to access appropriate food and fluids. Care records did not always reflect the most up to date advice and fluid intake records indicated recommended fluid intake levels were not always met."

At the time of the CQC report, Parkside Care released a statement, saying: "We regret that Northlands Care Home has fallen below the standards that we and the Care Quality Commission expect.

"As noted in the report, we were in the process of making improvements at the time of the inspection in December and have recruited an experienced new Head of Quality and Compliance.

"They are working with colleagues on a comprehensive plan to ensure that improvements required to our record keeping and procedures are made and sustained."

Lynne West says the family have not yet begun to grieve for her father. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Following Ms West's decision to speak to ITV Tyne Tees, a spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “We are aware of the CQC report, and our Safeguarding, Commissioning and Care Management teams will continue to work with the home and the CQC to resolve the issues."

The CQC report was published just a fortnight after Mr Johnston's funeral.

His daughter Ms West says that as a result, she and her family have not yet begun to grieve.

She is though, determined to make a stand - in her view, for other families experiencing similar issues.

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