AN investigation is underway as to whether an elderly man receiving home care missed vital medication days before he died.
The family of 93-year-old Reginald Dean, of Kings Head Hill, Chingford, say he should have lived for a few more years but instead became ill and died from a chest and urinary infection which they claim was brought on because he was not given the antibiotics and other medicines prescribed for him by his carer.
Mr Dean was being cared for by Leonard Cheshire Disability, which has received fierce criticism by some clients and their relatives because of late visits and inexperienced staff since it started a home care contract with Waltham Forest Council on April 21.
Mr Dean's niece Sue Boram, 62, said: "It is awful. I never had any trouble with the carers before. This is all about saving a few pounds and going for someone cheaper. But they haven't trained their staff properly and should have done so before they took the contract.
"Now I'm concerned about the other people Leonard Cheshire Disability are supposed to be looking after."
Ms Boram said that her uncle had been very acute and alert and was happy at his sheltered home, Enterprise, where he had been a popular resident for 23 years. He used to entertain the residents and staff with Scott Joplin songs on the piano in the dining room.
Prior to Leonard Cheshire Disability taking over his home care plan, a carer used to visit him each morning, give him his morning drugs and prepare his drugs for the rest of the day.
But Ms Boram claims that although a carer visited on the morning of April 20 and 21, her uncle told her the carer only changed the bed and no drugs were administered.
Because Mr Dean had a urinary infection he was due to take antibiotics, but the infection worsened and he was taken to Whipps Cross Hospital on April 21 where he died 10 days later.
Colin Young, director of UK operations for Leonard Cheshire Disability confirmed that a complaint had been received stating medication had not been administered but said there are "different views" on what had happened.
He said: "Carers can only administer medication where there is a requirement to do so and training is to be given in that. In most cases it is a case of prompting."
He said that the company has taken disciplinary action against some employees who have not performed to an "acceptable" standard and are still recruiting but he said the service has improved since the outset.
He said: "We have had only one missed visit but late or early visits is still a bit of an issue. We have now got people to do the work but it doesn't always happen at the time it is supposed to.
"You would do very well to get 100 per cent all the time. We are not there yet but not far off where we would expect to be with a well-run service."
Ms Boram added: "We are angry that he died before his time. Saving money should not come before giving our elderly the respect and care they need. We believe Waltham Forest has got their priorities wrong."
A Waltham Forest Council said it is investigating Ms Dean's complaints which will examine the care he received before he was hospitalised.
Cabinet member for health, adult and older people, Cllr Liz Phillips, said: "I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Mr Dean's family for their loss, and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
"The council is treating this case very seriously indeed, and a full and thorough investigation under the council's safeguarding process has begun.
"The investigation will involve clinical staff at the hospital and the full circumstances of Mr Dean's medical condition and death will be reviewed.
"Leonard Cheshire Disability put in place a new management team on Friday May 8 to ensure that the service quickly improves and the council has imposed daily monitoring of the service.
"We acknowledge that the home care service has not been up to the high standards that we expect, and require Leonard Cheshire Disability to address this immediately. If this does not happen the council has the power to cancel the contract."
The investigation will be completed within 28 days.
The issue of late home care visits continues to be problematic and distressing for some residents.
Kevin Ball said that carers are often late to see his 80-year-old father at his home in Kings Head Hill, Chingford, and on Saturday his father went to bed without having been changed, fed or given his medication because a carer from Leonard Cheshire Disability was late.
He said a carer telephoned his father at 10pm, but because there was no answer the manager said a "judgement call" was made not to disturb him.
Mr Ball said: "They made what they called a 'judgement call' to leave him because they didn't want to disturb him. But he was due to be given food and medication and they didn't make sure he'd had it.
"If he'd had a serious accident they would have been sued because of the decision they made. He could have been unconscious or dead."
Mr Ball, 40, of Waltham Abbey, who has had three strokes in the last three years, has dementia so it is important he reminded to take his medication regularly, which was prescribed to reduce the chances of another stroke.
He said that his father's birthday weekend was ruined because a carer removed a night catheter bag but it was not replaced so he sat in wet clothes all day.
Mr Ball has made several complaints to Leonard Cheshire Disability but said he is fed up with apologies and wants action for the elderly and vulnerable.
He added: "I cannot put into words how bad this all is. I cannot change carers because I can't afford it, so I have to just keep complaining. But this company has caused so many problems and its only by the grace of god that my father is okay."
Waltham Forest Guardian, 20th May 2009