Former MP - Lessons are not being learned at care home

Alexandra Court in Pemberton
Alexandra Court in Pemberton
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A former local MP is demanding the contract with a controversial Wigan care centre be reviewed after they were criticised again by a coroner.


Sir Ian McCartney spoke out after assistant coroner John Pollard demanded answers following an inquest into the death of 91-year-old Wycliffe Ashton Matthews earlier this month.

He died at Alexandra Court in Pemberton after being lifted using a hoist.

Mr Pollard ruled that neglect had been a contributory factor, while issuing an official ‘prevention of death’ notice against the privately managed facility.

He also criticised “untrained or inadequately trained” staff who failed to keep proper notes of the events which led to the pensioner’s death.

Exactly four years ago the ex-Makerfield MP and Cabinet Minister gave evidence to an inquest into the death of his father-in-law, Tommy Kevan, also 91, following his death at the same care centre in Howard Street.

The former chairman of NHS watchdog Wigan Healthwatch accused the facility of repeatedly prematurely discharging Mr Kevan, and “unacceptable delays” by staff in determining the level of his illness and an “appalling lack of record keeping”.

He insisted this had left “big, strong, man” Mr Kevan - who was found to have passed away from heart failure - weak, confused and dehydrated.

After hearing Sir Ian’s evidence at the hearing in December 2013, Wigan coroner Prof Jennifer Leeming used her official powers to make two ‘Regulation 28’ findings.

She warned the 20-year-old private operators of Alexandra Court - Wigan-based Cuerden Care Centres - over its failure to inform Wigan Infirmary that

Mr Kevan had been suffering from diarrhoea, which severely weakened him before he was readmitted from the care centre.

She also put on record her concern that WWL NHS Trust had carried out an audit of the delays in analysis of Mr Kevan’s samples at its laboratory, but there had been no further audit to check if the recommendations had been acted upon.

Sir Ian said that he had made a point of speaking out at his father-in-law’s inquest hearing specifically because he wanted to help improve the care culture at Alexandra Court and save families going through the trauma that had befallen his wife and himself.

Sir Ian said: “Tom and I were great friends and he is missed so much. Ann still mourns his loss every single day and he and she, as father and daughter, were extremely close.

“I’m so concerned that lessons just do not seem to be being learned and elderly Wiganers are still paying the price. We never got an official report into the death of Tom and there were procrastinations by all of the bodies concerned.

“I’m horrified that four years on, the neglect at this place is still being cited by coroners in the premature deaths of people in its care.

“The council social services fund intermediate patient stay there so that hospital beds can be emptied. And I am very concerned that it is failing in its duty, again and again.

“The situation now is that despite official warnings from the coroner over a long period it is open to question whether things are actually improving?

“Bad decisions continue to be being taken and these continue to lead to people’s premature deaths and this is just not acceptable and something really must be done.

“It is time to review whether the council should continue its contract with these people.”

Alexandra Court was rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission in a report published last year, but the inspectors did consider their safety record required improvements, amid concerns over management policies.

A spokesman for the council pointed out that it didn’t hold the contract with Alexandra Court for intermediate care referrals from the borough, that had been taken jointly by the Bridgewater NHS Trust and the Wigan Clinical Commissioning Group.

Director for Community Services at Bridgewater Community Health Care NHS Foundation Trust and Wigan Council, Sharon Barber, said: “We are dedicated to working with our care homes to ensure high standards and quality.

“We would advise anyone with any specific safeguarding concerns to report them to us so that we can fully investigate.”
Cuerden Care Homes, operators of Alexandra Court, declined to comment.