War veteran dies in council care home after dramatic weight loss

A 94-year-old war veteran died after he lost a stone-and-a-half in a month at a failing council care home.

A skeletal-looking Malcolm Muirhead was taken from Drumbrae care home in Edinburgh and admitted to the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh on May 14, where he died a week later. A social work report said he “had lost a significant amount of weight” and noted he was only being washed once a week in a sink, having fallen from a chair in his shower area.

Malcolm Muirhead lost a stone and a half in a month

It also raised concerns that he was wearing a “dirtied jumper” with food stains on it, had bloated feet, overgrown nails and infected toes.

The care home had been banned from taking in any more residents after inspectors flagged up a series of concerns, including poorly trained staff and errors being made with medicines.

A close friend of Mr Muirhead, a widower with no children, says he was not made aware the home was closed to new admissions.

It was only when a social work report raised serious concerns about Mr Muirhead, and he was moved to hospital, that he learned of the ban on new residents.

Hamid Khosrowpour, a friend of Mr Muirhead and the executor of his will, said that he only found out that Drumbrae was shut to new admissions after receiving Mr Muirhead’s individual assessment.

Concerned by his friend’s health, he demanded that a GP was called in and Mr Muirhead was admitted to the Western General Hospital on May 14, where he died a week later.

Mr Khosrowpour said: “When I asked they said Malcolm doesn’t show any interest in eating or drinking. He drank when I gave him juice and he said he was hungry.

“On May 14 the doctor went in to see Malcolm.

“He sent him to hospital because he was badly dehydrated and needed fluid.

“When he went into hospital the doctor said he couldn’t find a vein. He body was full of infection. In two days they gave him seven bags of fluid and said still they couldn’t hydrate him.”

Mr Khosrowpour, a retired takeaway owner whose children called Mr Muirhead “grandpa” called for immediate improvements to be made to the home to safeguard those living there.

He said: “People in this place are vulnerable and need help.”

The Care Inspectorate report was published in March, following a visit to the home in December.

It demanded the home meet a legal requirement to “ensure that residents at risk of not eating or drinking enough receive sufficient help to reduce the risk of poor nutrition and dehydration.”

The report also warned staff lacked knowledge or skills in a number or key areas. It said: “Our findings showed that some staff seemed to lack the knowledge and skills they needed to meet residents needs in a range of areas.”

The assessment also noted that a requirement from a previous inspection to have dieticians monitor vulnerable service users’ weight “to identify any risk of significant weight loss, risk of malnutrition/and or dehydration” had not been met.

It also identified errors being made with medicines, pain being “poorly understood” by workers, and rotas that did not meet minimum staffing levels.

Drumbrae was given a “grade two” assessment by the Care Inspectorate, which is equivalent to “Weak.”

Any care home that receives a grade two or below in the Care and Support category is automatically given a new admissions suspension by Edinburgh City Council.

This is to give time and space to make the relevant improvements to the home.

Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan said a lack of experienced staff at Drumbrae, as well as the issues around pain management and nutrition highlighted by the Care Inspectorate, would have a detrimental impact on residents.

He added: “The pictures of Mr Muirhead are truly shocking and our thoughts are with his family at this time.

“We understand they must be very distressed by his condition and subsequent death.

“We hope that Edinburgh City Council conducts a thorough investigation into their concerns about his treatment.”

Judith Proctor, chief officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care partnership, said: “We take all inspection reports and feedback from service users and their families very seriously and investigate all complaints raised. “The partnership will continue to work with the Care Inspectorate and Drumbrae to improve their practice.”

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