Slyne nursing home carers abused vulnerable residents ‘for laughs’, jury told

Hillcroft Nursing Home, Throstle Grove, Slyne wth Hest.
Hillcroft Nursing Home, Throstle Grove, Slyne wth Hest.

Cruel carers mocked, bullied and assaulted elderly residents in a Lancaster nursing home for laughs, a court heard today.

Victims with dementia were tormented because they would have no memory of the abuse, with one man having his foot stamped on deliberately and another tipped out of his wheelchair.

And the vulnerable victims were also pelted with bean bags at their heads “for entertainment,” Preston Crown Court heard.

Despite a series of complaints from whistle-blowers at Hillcroft Nursing Home, Slyne, there was a “cover-up” and the abuse continued, a jury heard.

Carol Ann Moore, 54, Katie Cairns, 27, and Gemma Pearson, 28, are on trial accused of ill treatment or neglect of a person who lacks capacity, under the Mental Capacity Act.

Moore, the team leader from Lancaster, faces six charges under the act, Cairns, from Morecambe, four counts, and Pearson, from Carnforth, a single count.

All the charges span from May 2010 to September 2011 and relate to eight alleged victims.

All three worked on the day shift on the Coniston Unit at the home near Lancaster, which housed residents diagnosed with dementia and displayed “challenging behaviour”, the court heard.

A fourth man who worked with them, Darren Smith, 35, from Lancaster, has already admitted eight counts and is not on trial.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Kathryn Johnson, told the court that the defendants, and Darren Smith, in “varying ways” ill-treated residents.

“They mocked them, bullied them and on occasions deliberately assaulted them,” she told the jury of nine women and three men.”

Ms Johnson said bean bags should have been used as part of recreational therapy but they were thrown so hard and fast that residents were unable to catch them.

“This caused frustration and anger in the residents, whereas the defendants would laugh,” she said.

Smith and Moore would say “they were doing it for their entertainment as they were bored” and if residents objected they “would be subjected to it all the more”.

Ms Johnson added: “When the residents reacted, the staff would laugh.”

Pearson was seen to tip a resident out of his wheelchair when he failed to stand up, causing him to stumble.

Lisa Bateman, a cleaner at the home, “felt the staff were cruel and was surprised that they did not attempt to hide what they were doing”.

The “last straw” for her came when one resident’s wife complained about the lack of activities at the home for her husband and others.

“She heard Carol Moore say she would get her own back and she walked up to the husband and slapped him across the face.”

Cairns, it was alleged, would pick on one man in particular, pulling loose skin on his neck and laughing, calling it his “mangina”.

The resident would become “distressed” but Cairns would laugh, it is claimed.

The same victim had bruises around his nipples as if they had been twisted and Cairns was seen to flick and comment on them, the jury heard.

And in one instance Miss Bateman saw Darren Smith and a second member of staff, named in court as Sean Long, in bed with a male resident and demanded to know what was going on.

Smith jumped out of bed and shut the door, the resident was “shouting and appeared distressed”.

“They then left his room and the resident clung to the door frame whilst they tried to pull him into the corridor,” the court heard.

A receptionist at the home, Nichola Pallister, and the cleaner, Ms Bateman, both reported to management that Moore had struck a resident, among other concerns about staff behaviour in September 2011.

The defendants were suspended but then reinstated.

And in December 2011 and January and March 2012 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) received anonymous emails about the home.

Hillcroft was one of six homes owned by John Ayrton, and another carer, Adrian Visoka, said there was a decline in standards when Elaine Fallowfield moved from the firm’s nursing home in Lancaster to take over as matron at the Coniston Unit - bringing her “favourite”, Darren Smith, with her.

Staff who complained to either Ms Fallowfield or area manager Sue Young were labelled “grass” and given the cold shoulder, the court heard.

And it appears that some who complained were given the impression that social services had been called in - but they were never informed of the alleged abuse.

Moore, of Ripon Avenue, Lancaster, Pearson, of Hill Street, Carnforth and Cairns, of Riverview Court, Morecambe, were arrested in October last year and told police they were not responsible for any abuse.

All three deny all charges.

The trial, scheduled to last up to four weeks, continues.