Inquests open into deaths of six elderly Brithdir care home residents

Credit: PA Images

Inquests into the deaths of six elderly residents of a controversial care home in the county of Caerphilly have opened.

Stanley James, June Hamer, William Hickman, Stanley Bradford, Edith Evans and Evelyn Jones were all cared for at the Brithdir care home in New Tredegar before their deaths between 2003 and 2005.

Assistant Coroner for Gwent Geraint Williams said the purpose of the hearings was to determine 'how, when and where' the seven people died, but that he would also consider “the actions of nurses and carers” at the home.

Mr Williams told the court in Newport that the four men and three women had all suffered a marked deterioration in their health before they died.

Many were found to be suffering from pressure sores, while feeding tubes had becomeinfected.

One resident, Stanley Bradford, was found by hospital staff to be “seriously malnourished.”

Another, Edith Evans, appeared “unkempt and dirty” with a dry mouth and thick tongue The site where a feed tube had been inserted looked “infected.”

The inquests follow a £15m police investigation into alleged failings at six care homes in south east Wales and focused on 63 deaths.

The five year-long probe – codenamed Operation Jasmine – was called off in 2010 when police were told there was insufficient evidence to bring any criminal prosecutions.

Care home owner Dr Prana Das, who owned a number of homes including Brithdir, did eventually stand trial under health and safety legislation.

But the trial collapsed in 2012 after Dr Das suffered head injuries during a burglary at his home and was found unfit to stand trial. Dr Das died last year.

Dr Prana Das denied any wrongdoing in a Wales This Week programme in 1995. Credit: ITV Wales

His widow, Dr Nishebita Das, who is said not to have taken part in running the Brithdir home, is expected to give evidence at the inquest.

In 2015, three nurses who’d worked at Brithdir were struck off the nursing register for misconduct.

The previous year, the Director of Nursing at Caerphilly Local Health Board, Christine Hayes, was also struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The NMC panel ruled that Mrs Hayes continued to move residents into Brithdir, despite knowing of serious concerns over poor standards there.

Today, Mr Williams said: "Operation Jasmine uncovered evidence suggesting poor care of residents, including allegations of poor pressure sore and peg (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) feed management, malnourishment, and general neglect of the residents' long-term needs, together with deficient standards of care and nursing practice."

Mr Williams told the hearing that, even before the couple purchased the home in April 2002 under their company Puretruce Health Care Limited, "serious concerns" were raised by state agencies regarding the number of residents who had suffered pressure ulcers.

"Those issues continued, even after Dr Das assumed ownership of the home," the coroner said.

Mr Williams said the inquest will consider the actions of nurses and carers at the home, "many of whom came to this country from abroad to work and have since returned there, and are now not available to participate in the inquest."

A hearing into the death of a seventh resident, Matthew Higgins, 86, will be held following the conclusion of the other six.