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Tom Gent represents care homes at remotely attended inquests

Tom Gent has represented the interests of two care homes at two inquests (one held in Maidstone Coroner’s Court, the other in Ipswich).  Each inquest was concluded within one day and neither involved a jury.  Counsel and some witnesses attended remotely, with others attending the court room.  Maidstone’s chosen platform was Skype for Business, whereas Ipswich used Microsoft Teams.

In relation to the first, a 98-year-old woman had been admitted to hospital following a fall on 3rd February 2020.  She had previously been suffering from a UTI and exhibiting confused behaviour.  The fall had resulted in a de-gloving injury to her left leg.  At hospital she is recorded as having had episodes of confusion and delirium, associated with infection.  She was discharged to the home for end of life care.  There was an issue as to whether she had been suffering with dementia, with the relevant Doctor initially putting that condition forward as having been contributory within the medical cause of death, but the Coroner deciding that it should not be recorded. The Coroner reached a short-form conclusion of “accident”.

At the second, the resident in a sheltered housing apartment had fallen and suffered a head injury.  She had been promptly admitted to hospital, where it was discovered that she had sustained an acute subdural haematoma.  She was discharged from hospital, back to the same apartment, under the same care package 16 days later. Within 3 days, she was discovered on the floor of her bedroom and once again admitted to hospital.  The acute subdural haematoma had extended.  She was eventually discharged back to the family home, where she passed away just over a week later.  Issues central to the inquest were the appropriateness of the level of care she had been receiving and the decision to discharge from hospital following the first admission.  The Coroner heard from 3 witnesses over video link and 2 who had attended the hearing in person. The Coroner found that the level of care provided was entirely appropriate and that the decision to discharge had followed the correct procedure, there having been an appropriate multi-disciplinary assessment. Again, a short form conclusion of “accident” was reached.

Whilst the issues involved were not the most complex, the hearings went relatively smoothly and allowed for a prompt inquiry into the deaths that was welcomed by family members.  The quality of the link was clearly dependent on the strength of the WiFi signal at the witness’s home, but with one exception, this didn’t prove problematic.  Sadly, whilst the comedic potential of a significant delay on the line hung tantalisingly in the air, it wasn’t realised.

Tom is the Head of the Health & Safety Team at Park Square Barristers and is Ranked Tier 1 for Regulatory, Health and Safety, and Licensing and Inquests & Inquiries- The Legal 500 (2020)