Care providers need advice and support when there is – or could be – an inquest into a death at a care home.
This is a specialist area, and law firm Mills & Reeve helps providers explain the inquest process and the steps care providers can take in respect of potential claims.
“It is always going to be a harrowing time, and what can sometimes compound things is the possibility there may be some sense of fault, some criticism from a family who will undoubtedly want to understand the facts and reasons that may have contributed to the death of a loved one. There could also be the possibility of a claim for compensation some way down the track,” said Chris Gough. He urged care homes to check their insurance policy.
“Many policies provide cover for that sort of circumstance in relation to the potential for compensation in terms of damages, and also any costs incurred in pursuing a claim. They can also cover the costs that a business might need to incur in preparing for an inquest, or at the sharper end in considering and being advised on a potential regulatory issue and the possibility of a prosecution.”
Ruth Minnis said an inquest usually occurs when there is an unexpected death in a care home or questions remain about the circumstances surrounding a death.
“Those circumstances could possibly be due to neglect by staff or through a resident sustaining an injury whilst in their care,” she said. “For example, I’ve been involved in an inquest where an elderly lady in a nursing care home was nearing the end of her life and had been diagnosed with dementia, which was deteriorating. As a result of that she lost weight and developed some pressure ulcers. Following her death, her son argued that this was due to staff neglect, and the Court held an inquest in those circumstances.”
Ruth Minnis added that the inquest lasted for three days. “We heard lots of evidence from different medical professionals that had been involved with this elderly lady, as well as evidence from the care home. The coroner came to the conclusion that the lady had died of natural causes and neglect did not contribute to her death.”
One of the roles for Mills & Reeve is to review the evidence early and identify if there is anything the care home can learn from what happened. The coroner would also identify any gaps in care as they have a duty to prevent a future death.
“The point to emphasise here is that we can’t change the facts, but we can make sure that they are accurately recorded, well documented, clearly presented and then, in the context of the inquest, are going to be fairly explained by lay witnesses who have a good grasp of what their evidence actually is,” said Chris Gough. “All of which will help develop a proper understanding by the coroner first and foremost, but possibly by the jury who may be assisting the coroner in reaching a conclusion on the death.”
You can listen to Ruth Minnis and Chris Gough from Mills & Reeve on our special podcast.
Tune in here.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this podcast or would like support with training or around your strategy when dealing with an unexpected death, please do get in touch with Chris Gough and Ruth Minnis.
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