Son praises the whistleblowers who had courage to speak out

Chris Haywood, whose father was abused by carers at Hillcroft Nursing Home Slyne with Hest.
Chris Haywood, whose father was abused by carers at Hillcroft Nursing Home Slyne with Hest.

Kind-hearted Ken Haywood would do anything for anyone, taking sweets to staff at his local bank and going out of his way to help families during his career at Lancaster City Council’s housing department.

A Lancaster Royal Grammar School boy and originally from the city’s Newton estate, he served his country in the RAF.

But as unforgiving dementia slowly gripped him in his later years, his devastated family knew he needed proper care.

Son Chris, a married father-of-two from Lancaster, chose Hillcroft Nursing Home at Slyne in October 2010 after being impressed by staff and its specialist Coniston Unit.

But it was there that his father and seven other dementia sufferers were physically abused by carers who, a trial at Preston Crown Court heard, “mocked, bullied and assaulted” them for laughs when they were “bored”.

Chris, 37, a customer advisor in Carnforth, said: “Your worst nightmare in these scenarios is basically what’s happened.

“These are people I shared a cup of tea with while discussing my dad’s care.

“Were they laughing at us behind our backs and waiting for us to leave so they could do it again?”

Katie Cairns, 27, one of three care workers convicted on Friday, stamped on Mr Haywood’s foot so hard it broke his toe nail.

The bruise injury was found by his wife Mara Haywood, 62, on one of her daily visits.

Mrs Haywood, of Lancaster, who was married to her husband for 40 years, also found injuries on his hands and head.

Chris went on: “When you ask how they came about, you would get ‘oh, he fell over, he was unsteady’ or ‘he banged his head on the radiator’.

“Why would a person want to go and stamp on a man’s foot? He’s obviously no harm to them.”

Chris placed his father in care fearing he would be abused on the streets after he roamed late at night dazed and confused as his condition worsened.

Chris relived the moment plain-clothed police turned up at work in May 2012 to tell him his father, who had died that January aged 72, might have been the victim of abuse.

Officers had been alerted by Lancashire County Council’s social services department.

Anonymous emails had also been sent to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) by a whistleblower.

He said: “I was shell-shocked. I had to leave work to meet the police at my mum’s house.”

The trial heard receptionist Nichola Pallister and cleaner Lisa Bateman both reported Carol Ann Moore, the unit’s team leader, for hitting a resident and raised other concerns.

Moore, Cairns and another worker were suspended but reinstated. The court heard workers who raised concerns were labelled “grass”.

Chris said: “I had never been able to visit my dad’s grave until now. The first time I visited was Friday, after the trial ended.” Chris, still on medication to cope with the trauma, hopes the case encourages people from all organisations to report wrong-doing.

And he emotionally expressed his gratitude to those who did just that at Hillcroft.

He said: “Whistleblowing has to be made acceptable. It was all covered up at Hillcroft. I want to say a huge thank you to the people for taking that leap of faith and stepping out of the dark and being counted.

“Without them plucking up the courage, I might never have known anything happened to my dad. It is what brought this case forward.”

Cairns, of Riverview Court, Morecambe, Moore, 54, of Ripon Avenue, Lancaster and Gemma Pearson, 28, of Hill Street, Carnforth, were found guilty of various charges of abusive behaviour.

A fourth carer, Darren Smith, 35, of Howgill Avenue, Lancaster, previously admitted abusing eight residents.

The charges related from May 2010 to September 2011.

All four were convicted of the ill-treatment and wilful neglect of a person with lack of capacity under the Mental Capacity Act.

They will be sentenced on January 10 and face jail terms of up to five years.