When war veteren Leslie Vines died ten days after being admitted to Maypole Nursing Home, his daughter thought the staff had done all they can to provide her father with the best possible care.
Despite having Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, the 77-year-old was “as fit as a 21-year-old” according to staff at Heartlands Hospital, where he was transferred from in August 2002.
His family claimed his condition deteriorated and within 48 hours he was in “a zombie-like state”.
He died on September 7 and his daughter, Hazel Bicknell, even handed nursing manager Kathleen Smith a thank-you card for looking after him.
The pensioner’s cause of death was recorded as bronchial pneumonia, but neither a post mortem or inquest was held.
Maypole Nursing Home was closed six months later, in March 2003, after a surprise inspection by the National Care Standards Council revealed it was filthy and understaffed.
As details of the 27 deaths at the Kings Heath home between 2002 and 2003 emerged - compared to eight in 2001 - Mrs Bicknell, of Shirley, in Solihull, wondered if she had heard the whole story, and began demanding answers when Birmingham coroner Aidan Cotter refused to hold an inquest into several deaths at the home, including her father’s.
Last month Mrs Bicknell won a five-year legal battle after Justice Secretary Jack Straw ordered Mr Cotter to hold an inquest into Mr Vine’s death following a judicial review.
Today after Smith and her colleagues Carol Bushell and Mary Casey were struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, Mrs Bicknell admitted she felt “overwhelmed”.
“I’m so overwhelmed to know they’ve been struck off, it doesn’t seem real yet,” she said.
“My view is they shouldn’t be nurses in the first place. If they’re not caring people they shouldn’t be allowed to be responsible for frail, elderly people.
“A lot of things have come out that we were completely unaware off, that were shocking and upsetting, but hopefully by doing this other people with Alzhiemer’s and Parkinson’s won’t have to go through this in similar care homes.
“We can’t thank you and the rest of the media enough for bringing to light what happened at Maypole, Irwin Mitchell for taking on a case no other solicitor wanted to touch once Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s was mentioned, and the NMC for conducting such a thorough investigation.
“My mum blamed herself for Dad’s death, because it was her decision to put him in the Maypole, and I believe he wouldn’t have died if she’d got help to care for him at home, during the night, when she needed to sleep. I’m sure if he’d got care at home he’d be alive today.”
Victoria Blankstone, solicitor with Birmingham-based law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represented the Bicknell family, called for a “whole scale review” of the care sector.
She said: “We’re very relieved that all three have been struck off the Register and that the NMC have taken this step to protect the public from the dangerous practises of these people.
“They used very strong words in relation to the nurses, in particular they stated that none of them showed any insight, regret, remorse or apologies. This is not what the public wish to see from the nursing profession.
“As tragic as circumstances were at the Maypole Nursing Home, it’s regretful that so many families are left without help at home so that there’s often no option other than for elderly relatives to be admitted into a nursing home for full-time care.
“With an increasing elderly population and the strain this will put on resources, it’s time for a whole scale review into how care is managed and monitored in the UK.”