Elderly trio received 'below-standard care' at home before natural causes deaths

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A coroner holding an inquest into the deaths of three elderly people at a residential home said the care they received "fell below the standard expected".

Albert Pooley, 89, and 85-year-olds James Metcalfe and Harry Kilvington died within the space of seven months last year due to natural causes, North Yorkshire coroner Michael Oakley found.

But having heard about hundreds of ants crawling on a bedside table as a resident ate breakfast, excrement on the floors and a nurse finding Mr Metcalfe sitting in his own filth after being left for four-and-a-half hours, Mr Oakley was critical of management at Sowerby House, near Thirsk.

He returned a narrative verdict in each case, saying: "Whilst the standard of care afforded to the deceased whilst at Sowerby House was below the standard expected of a nursing home, he has died from natural causes."

Mr Oakley said the manager "fell short of the task" and, as a consequence, so did the staff.

North Yorkshire Police and the Care Quality Commission began investigations after concerns were raised about standards at the home. No criminal charges will follow.

After the hearing, Michelle Thomson, lawyer for the Pooley family, said they hoped lessons will be learned.

A spokesman for the home, which applied to no longer operate as a nursing home, said improvements have been made.

"It is undergoing a complete transformation, with the support and involvement of residents, families and staff," he said.   

"A new management and support team is in place and considerable investment is under way in the fabric of the home.

"The national shortage of nurses led to a decision to change the registration and the home now focuses on residential care."

The Care Quality Commission rated Sowerby House "inadequate" at an inspection in October.

A CQC spokeswoman said: "We will always look to celebrate examples of outstanding care, but we won't hesitate to take enforcement action against registered providers who aren't providing the level of care that people are entitled to."