THE relatives of four residents who died of coronavirus at a York care home have slated the way they and their loved ones were treated.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said the relatives had all raised concerns with her about a range of issues during a Covid-19 outbreak in April at Meadowbeck in Osbaldwick.

Their grievances included poor communications by the home with families, a lack of PPE for staff and a lack of support for residents, and she said ‘whistleblowers’ had also complained to her about PPE shortages.

The allegations are denied by the home’s owners Barchester Healthcare.

The MP said relatives of one resident claimed communication from the home had been almost non-existent. “They say they were not kept accurately informed about the condition of their relative,” she said.

“Since their relative died they have not had any communications from Meadowbeck, not even a message of condolence.”

She said another resident claimed they had not been kept informed what was happening in the home, as if there was some ‘secrecy,’ and they had had no follow up or condolences from the home.

She said that according to the family, when their relative was dying, they had gone into the home wearing masks, aprons and gloves, even though they were assured it was pneumonia and not Covid.

“They said that when they were there, no staff had PPE; a staff member came in to the room with no mask or gloves,” said Ms Maskell.

The MP said relatives of a third resident claimed there was a lack of communications and a lack of support in meeting their relative’s social needs, and no-one ever offered the family condolences - although the following week, the family received a sales call from Barchester Homes.

She said relatives of a fourth resident claimed things were fine at the home until early April when the home apparently accepted a patient from the NHS in Harrogate, who was not previously a resident.

“This person, they believe, was untested. This information came from their relative in Meadowbeck and care staff. The Harrogate patient then died, and it was reported that there were cases 'upstairs' which had been spread from this initial case.”

The MP said she had written to the Care Quality Commission and City of York Council in May to raise concerns about Meadowbeck, for example about the management of risk and scrutiny of safety and was awaiting a response,” she said.

News of the complaints comes after the Prime Minister provoked anger when he suggested “too many” care homes did not properly follow procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s comments were branded a “real slap in the face” for care workers by the Independent Care Group, while other sector leaders branded them “clumsy and cowardly", “totally inappropriate” and “hugely insulting".

Downing Street declined to apologise for the Prime Minister’s comments, with his official spokesman - asked during a Westminster briefing what the PM had meant by the remarks - saying: “Throughout the pandemic, care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.

“The Prime Minister was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”

  • The daughters of a Meadowbeck resident who complained to the York Central MP about the home have also spoken to The Press. They said they were unhappy about the care given to their mother during the lockdown, prior to her catching Covid-19, claiming that while unable to visit her, they were repeatedly told over the phone she was ‘fine,’ but when they finally got to see her, she was ‘emaciated.’

They said that due to their mum having dementia, a family member would visit her every day before lockdown to ensure she was OK, having a good day and to support her and encourage her to eat, but it appeared this support did not continue once lockdown restrictions were imposed. “This added to our disappointment and stress, as we trusted the same care would have been offered during such a difficult time.”

They also said that after her death, they had been charged a £1,400 "after death service fee" – equivalent to a week’s charges.

Meadowbeck’s owners Barchester said in an invoice that this fee was charged to ensure "your room will be available to the family for seven days and we will provide support to your family and loved ones as required". But the daughters said they couldn’t even go inside the home because of lockdown and their mum’s possessions were put in binbags and left in the porch for them to pick up.

  • Meadowbeck’s owner Barchester Healthcare has responded to the relatives’ complaints.

It said that as the claims were anonymous, it was unable to be specific because it was impossible to verify details.

“However, our teams are very sensitive to the needs of relatives and we are confident that communication was ongoing with all families, at all levels of the business, and particularly with affected families to update them and support them through, what we know, was a difficult time,” it said.

“Our staff provide regular proactive updates on the wellbeing of individual residents and the team aim to be as helpful and informative as possible when specific updates are requested by family members.”

It said the home was in regular contact with Public Health England and also had an Infection Control Inspection on May 6 by the Community Infection Prevention and Control Team (CIPCT) lead for NHS Vale of York CCG, from which there were no negative findings.

“As a large care home provider we have a robust supply chain and have had PPE at Meadowbeck care home, which has been well stocked throughout the pandemic, and our staff are fully trained in how to wear it,” it said.

“The guidance on the use of PPE was changing constantly during the end of March and April and we were aligning our guidance to that.”

It said Barchester was committed to the idea that everyone who chose to stay with it to the end of their life should die well cared-for and with dignity and it prided itself on providing an exceptional after death service in line with this.

It said the after death service fee was agreed when a resident moved in and was equivalent to the weekly fee, and was only charged if another resident did not move into the room within the seven days.

“This includes a number of things, such as holding a room vacant for a guaranteed period of seven days after a resident has passed so that at a time of distress the family are not forced to schedule clearing the room ahead of dealing with other matters which they may feel are more pressing, offering support to families following their bereavement should they need it, as well as notifying relevant third parties such as regulators, the coroner etc as required.”