Complaints upheld over dying wife’s treatment

A HOME CARE firm has apologised to a Darnick widower who said he was forced to look after his dying wife himself in her final days due to their poor daytime service.

David Jamieson told carers from Independent Living Services to leave his Abbotsford Terrace home after they failed to wear protective clothing when treating his critically ill wife, Elspeth, 63.

Following her death in December last year, Mr Jamieson launched a series of complaints against the company, including a visit which lasted only nine minutes and a carer who badly smelt.

And three of the concerns were upheld by Scottish Borders Council after an investigation earlier this year.

Mr Jamieson, 67, said: “I did not need this hassle, nor did my wife. She did not say anything to the carers when they were in our house, but as soon as they left, she burst into tears and asked me not to let them back in. I said ‘What can I do?’, but eventually I told them not to come back.

“This should not happen in the last days of someone’s life.”

A grandmother of four, Mrs Jamieson had spent lengthy periods in hospital over a three-year period. After another spell in hospital due to a culmination of health issues, the former sales executive was discharged on November 15 and palliative home care arranged.

Selkirk-based Border Caring Services stepped in to look after Mrs Jamieson, but ILS took over her care on December 3 without consultation with her husband.

Mr Jamieson said: “When they arrived for the first time, one of the ILS carers asked me ‘What do we do?’

“They said they had received no instructions, which I could not believe. They said they were only meant to stay for half an hour instead of the usual hour-and-a-half visit from Border Caring.

“I said they might as well go, but after a call to their bosses they stayed for 90 minutes.”

In a diary kept by Mr Jamieson the week ILS provided care, he also noted of the initial visit: “One carer was stinking of body odour and had artificial extended finger nails. No aprons were worn. Not acceptable.”

Whilst praising the “highly professional” standard from ILS’s night-time carers, Mr Jamieson continued to grow increasingly angry at the lack of quality in their daytime provision. He noted three visits of nine, 15 and 20 minutes on separate days and the continued failure to use protective clothing, culminating in Mr Jamieson banning ILS’s day-time staff from his home on December 8, claiming he was “disgusted” with their service.

Rejecting ILS, the former St Boswells resident looked after his wife during the day with the help of a neighbour until she died on December 11.

Following an investigation, SBC agreed that Mr Jamieson should have been informed of a change of provider, that carers failed to wear protective clothing and the length of visit times by ILS staff were not adequate.

In a letter to Mr Jamieson, ILS service manager Karen Paterson apologised and said a member of staff was “withdrawn” following his complaint over hygiene. She said ILS told the previous provider they were unable to deliver the same level of service due to extreme wintry weather at the time.

SBC also said sorry to the pensioner for the standard of service and a spokesman for the local authority added: “A complaint was fully investigated about care provided during the period of severe weather earlier this year and we understand that ILS has written to the family concerned to apologise that several aspects of the care were not up to the standard they would expect.

“A number of actions have been identified following the complaint that will address these concerns and the council will ensure appropriate measures have been put in place and are monitored as part of the close contract monitoring arrangements.”

Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre, who, along with former MSP Jeremy Purvis, took up Mr Jamieson’s case, told us: “It is terribly important that the care which is offered to vulnerable people is of the highest standard.

“I sincerely believe that the lessons learned from this episode will be of benefit to others in the Borders.”