'What happened to mum must not be repeated'

TWO devastated children today spoke of the agony of watching their mother die after she choked to death at an Ipswich care home.

TWO devastated children today spoke of the agony of watching their mother die after she choked to death at an Ipswich care home.

The family of Florence Smith are demanding answers after serious concerns were raised over the level of first aid training at Shaftesbury House.

The 88-year-old, a retired carer, choked on a jam sandwich in May at the Sanctuary Care-owned home in Cowper Street and suffered brain damage before dying at Ipswich Hospital 11 days later.

Her daughter, Rosie Jay, of Westbury Road, Ipswich, said: “It's left a big hole in the family.

“It was awful to get the phone call and then have to watch her die.”

As Mrs Smith choked, carers tried to help her before the paramedics arrived, but she lost consciousness.

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An inquest into her death heard how there was only one member of staff working at the time who had basic first aid training.

The revelation left the coroner “deeply troubled” and has also led the family to question why there were not more first aid-trained staff members able to help.

Mrs Smith's son, Fred, 64, of Ramsgate Drive, Ipswich, said: “It was tragic that there were four staff standing watching, powerless to do anything. I just don't want it to happen again.”

Mrs Jay, 53, added: “If it had happened in her room, you might have understood it, but it happened when she was sitting at the tea table while all the staff were supposed to be there. It beggars belief.

“What if two members of staff are having to deal with an emergency at the same time? Something should be done to have more trained staff on duty.”

Despite the accident happening several months ago, coroner Dr Peter Dean said at the inquest last weekthat he was “astonished” that staff had still not received further training.

The coroner's report is being sent to the family, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and Sanctuary Care after a verdict of accidental death was recorded.

Mrs Smith's children said they will study the report before taking any further action.

Mrs Jay said: “When our mother first went in there we assumed the staff could perform first aid. It was a big decision at the time for her to go.

“You pay all this money and you think they are going to be well looked after, but when it came to it she wasn't, was she?

“I would like to think it would never happen to anybody else.”

Have you suffered a bad experience with a care home? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

AN organisation which monitors adult social care services in England today said it would listen to the concerns of Florence Smith's family.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) regulates, inspects and reviews care homes and gives them a quality rating.

One of its remits is to enforce national minimum standards, but also to suggest ways for a care home to improve its service.

With regard to staffing, one of the national minimum standards is to have a qualified first aider available at all times.

At the last inspection, The CSCI judged Shaftesbury House to have met these standards and also said the overall quality of the care home was “good” with a two-star rating out of three.

In light of the tragedy, the CSCI said it would not be taking any action at this stage until it had read the coroner's report. It also welcomed any comments from the 88-year-old's family.

Ray Veasey, spokesman for the CSCI, said: “We take people's concerns very seriously and would of course consider the family's views along with the transcript of the coroner's report that he is sending to us.”

SANCTUARY Care today said it had now made sure there was a professionally trained first aider on hand at Shaftesbury House at all times in the wake of Florence Smith's death.

The company, which runs the care home where the 88-year-old died, offered its “deepest sympathies” to her family and said it was committed to ensuring all its staff and care homes were following its training policies.

Although an inquest found that only one member of staff had basic first aid training at the time of the tragedy, Sanctuary Care insists it always requires its staff to be “appropriately” trained.

Steve Wood, managing director of Sanctuary Care, said: “All Sanctuary Care staff are required to undergo basic first aid training, with team leaders undergoing an advanced Health and Safety Executive-approved four-day first aid training course.

“In addition to the basic trained first aiders who have always been available at Shaftesbury House, we have now ensured that a member of staff professionally trained in advanced first aid is available at all times.

“A full internal review of our compliance procedures is underway to ensure that our training policies are being followed by all managers at our homes at all times.”

FLORENCE Smith spent most of her life caring for others - but sadly died in the care of others.

The 88-year-old brought up four children on her own after her husband, Alfred, died and she later became a carer in Ipswich with Home Help.

She also served as a wren during the war.

Her son, Fred Smith, said: “She was very protective. If you ever had a problem or wanted help she would give you whatever she had. She was willing to help anybody. She had a hard life but never moaned about it.”

Mr Smith said his mother became lonely after the children left home and although she had a few friends, she would largely keep herself to herself.

Later in life, she developed depression and spent some time in St Clement's Hospital in Ipswich before going to Shaftesbury House, where she would live her last 13 years.

She is survived by her five brothers, one sister, four children - Philip, Rosie, Patience and Fred - nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.