Nurse Denies Cover Up Of Elderly Woman's Death In Birmingham

1 September 2015, 18:56 | Updated: 1 September 2015, 18:58

A nurse has denied claims he harmed a frail widow and then covered up his actions, at an inquest into the 91-year-old's death at a care home in Birmingham.

Santhosh Rajan said he had nothing to do with a fracture to Iris Teale's thigh while working the night shift at the Bupa-run Aston Court care home near Sutton Coldfield.

Registered general nurse Mr Rajan was acquitted of the manslaughter of Mrs Teale, who suffered with dementia, at a criminal trial earlier this year.

During an inquest at Cannock Coroners Court, he said that when he last checked on Mrs Teale she had been ``fast asleep''.

Asked by counsel for Mrs Teale's family if he had mishandled his charge while on his rounds on the evening of October 11 2011, Mr Rajan replied: ``No, she was in her bed. We didn't lift her.''

``We didn't touch her, we didn't do anything to her,'' he added.

Mr Rajan said he only became aware Mrs Teale had suffered a broken thigh when he went into the room with another care assistant that night to change her sanitary pad.

Another staff nurse, Jill Kilgallon, who came to help, described Mrs Teale's leg as ``floppy'' with a consistency ``like gravel'' where the break had happened.

A Home Office pathologist was unable to say how she sustained a 16cm spiral fracture, but said it was ``unlikely'' to have happened through getting tangled in her bedding.

Alexander Kolar, who carried out the post-mortem, said the break accelerated Mrs Teale's death 16 days after she was admitted to Birmingham's Good Hope Hospital.

Her family's barrister asked Mr Rajan if he doctored paperwork from his rounds.

John Coughlan said: ``You were trying to create an impression you had done things at the right time, and that she was fast asleep when you checked on her.''

The nurse denied any wrongdoing and said when he twice looked in on Mrs Teale she was asleep, so he continued checking the other 23 residents on his floor.

The barrister asked him: ``Were you part of a culture of handling residents on your own ... a frail lady like Iris - that would be easy for a man of your strength?''

Mr Rajan replied: ``No.''

Mr Coughlan asked Mr Rajan if he had ``dropped'' Mrs Teale and lifted her back into bed.

Mr Rajan said: ``No, we didn't touch her, we didn't do anything to her.''

Mrs Teale was described as needing round-the-clock care and help eating, drinking, bathing and sitting up.

The cause of death was as a result of heart disease, chronic renal failure, Lewy bodies dementia and the fractured femur.

With her underlying poor health and frailty, Dr Kolar said the break was ``a significant event ... essentially acting as a tipping point to her pre-existing conditions''.

Mrs Teale, who had osteoporosis, also had a small bleed on the brain, but it was not possible to tell when it happened.

Earlier, coroner Andrew Haigh was told by three care assistants who worked day shifts at the home how they mishandled Mrs Teale the day before she was injured.

However, all the carers - one of whom is still employed at the home - said Mrs Teale seemed ``her normal self''.

The care assistants breached policy rules by not using a hoist to lift her in and out of bed.

The home's manager at the time, Fiona Melling, said all three were disciplined, but she had not been aware of any staff culture of breaching the policy on handling residents.

Kerry Pemberton, of Walsall, Rachel Foulger, of Little Aston, and current employee Rizwana Kosar, of Walsall, all admitted incorrectly handling Mrs Teale.

Mr Coughlan said to Mrs Foulger: ``There was a culture of manual handling otherwise than in accordance with the care plan, wasn't there?''

She replied: ``It did happen quite frequently, yes.''

Mrs Pemberton said that while she had been aware of widespread mishandling of residents, she was ``not sure'' why she had failed to notify management.

Mrs Kosar also accepted incorrectly handling Mrs Teale.

On the night the pensioner was found injured, it emerged the care home was short-staffed, with two nurses and only two carers on shift, instead of the usual three.

The inquest, scheduled for three days, continues.