Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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Carers spent months abusing elderly dementia patients at Cumbrian home

Three care assistants spent months systematically abusing vulnerable pensioners at a Cumbrian nursing home.

Care workers photo
From left, Claire Strong, William Bowman, Chevonne Benson

Elderly patients with dementia – most in their 70s, 80s and 90s – endured humiliating mistreatment at the hands of William Bowman, 22, Chevonne Benson, 23, and 21-year-old Claire Strong.

All were employed at the Bupa-run Beacon Edge Nursing Home in Penrith.

Carlisle Crown Court heard how over several months last year Bowman and Benson subjected elderly patients to cruel treatment, which included assaults, hair pulling, name calling and various sick pranks.

On one occasion Benson told an 82-year-old woman she had not paid her bills, saying she would be evicted from the home and that her belongings had been sent to the tip.

She called another vulnerable pensioner “a cabbage” before leaning over her and muttering: “I hate her”.

Bowman and Benson also amused themselves by deliberately turning one patient’s bedroom light off so that she would be frightened.

Bowman, of Bowscar, Penrith, pleaded guilty to eight charges of ill-treating six patients at the home, while Benson, of Roman Road, Penrith, admitted 10 like offences against seven victims.

Strong, of Crooklands View, Clifton, near Penrith, has admitted three counts of ill-treating patients by taking and then sharing photos of them in humiliating situations.

The offences happened between January and September of last year. The oldest victim was 96.

Though few details were aired in court, an earlier hearing was given a description, much of it deeply disturbing.

Prosecutor Diane Jackson told magistrates in February the offences were not isolated.

She said: “They appear to be serious and systematic abuse for the entertainment of the defendants.”

Mrs Jackson revealed how the mistreatment came to light on September 5 last year after Lorna Burns, who had just landed a job as a carer at Beacon Edge, resigned four days later saying she was appalled by the ill-treatment she saw.

She told the home’s manager, who immediately reported what she was told to social services – that the level of “care” she saw had been “cruel and disrespectful”.

She described seeing Bowman creep up on a seated woman patient from behind and then suddenly “yank her hair”, making his victim scream out in shock.

The patient was visibly upset so Miss Burns stayed with her to calm and comfort her. The patient said that Bowman was “always doing that to us”.

The court also heard how an elderly woman was left standing in a room, distressed and crying, after Benson told her she would be charged £100 if she sat in a chair.

None of the defendants have previous convictions.

All will be sentenced in October after background reports are prepared.

The News & Star asked Bupa why the abuse went undetected for several months, whether any managers were sacked or disciplined as a result and what actions have been taken to safeguard patients since?

A spokeswoman said everybody at the home was deeply shocked by the defendants’ actions.

“None of us can understand how young people planning a career in care and nursing could behave this way. We would again like to apologise to the residents and their families.”

She added: “This isolated behaviour does not reflect the high level of commitment and care provided by staff in the home. We have robust whistle-blowing procedures. It was the actions of our people in reporting this behaviour that allowed us to take action and ask the police to investigate the three individuals.

“We are grateful to the police in helping to ensure these individuals can never work with vulnerable people again. Cumbria police praised our actions in their statement from January, noting the home has been proactive in safeguarding residents.

“Other carers reported the unacceptable behaviour, so action could be taken because they always put the protection and wellbeing of residents first.”

An unannounced inspection by the Care Quality Commission confirmed the home is meeting all official standards and provides a safe and stimulating place for residents.


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