Coroner comes to open verdict on death of Walthamstow woman

The death of a “kind and gentle” woman in a care home remains a mystery after an inquest was unable to determine whether she died of natural causes.

And the son of Renee Vincent, 83, spoke of his disquiet at how long it took staff to tell him she was in hospital.

Mrs Vincent was admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital on August 31 last year after carers at Forest View Care Home in Walthamstow found her in her room bleeding from a large cut on her head.

She died at hospital on September 6, having suffered a brain haemorrhage, but doctors were unsure if her injury caused the bleed or if a spontaneous bleed caused her to injure herself.

A statement from her son Paul, read out at the inquest on February 2, said he was concerned how long it took care home staff to find her or to inform him she was in hospital.

His statement said: “My mother was a kind and gentle person, a devoted mother, a loving grandmother and a loyal and loving wife to my father.

“She was a very petite and graceful lady with a funny and happy personality, who enjoyed gardening, nature and watching sports, particularly her favourite football team West Ham.”

Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard that he first learned of his mother’s hospitalisation at 10am the next day, when he received a phone call from a doctor at Whipps Cross.

He was told that care home staff entered her room, after the pressure-sensitive mat by her bed alerted them that she had got up, to find her sitting on her bed with a bleeding cut by her ear.

While it is thought Mrs Vincent may have fallen, she was unable to explain what happened because of her dementia and was alone in the room when she was injured.

Mr Vincent asked: “How did my mother get out of bed in the night, fall in her room, cut her head, leave blood on the sink and chair then manage to get back on the bed before staff arrived?

“I have no idea… why I was not contacted sooner by anyone involved so I could immediately go to the hospital to be with her.”

Mr Vincent chose not to attend the inquest and not to ask questions of the care home staff present.

Forest View carer Mary Abrahams told the court she had been caring for Mrs Vincent since March that year and had never known her to have mobility issues.

She said: “I never saw her fall and was not aware she ever fell while at Forest View. She could be a bit wobbly when tired but never so much that I was worried she would fall.

“Sometimes she would get up at night, she used to move things around her room, believing she was tidying up. If the alert went off we were to check on her and get her back to bed.”

East London coroner Nadia Persaud also considered the evidence from doctors who cared for doctors who treated Mrs Vincent, who were unable to establish what caused the bleed.

She decided to reach an “open conclusion” to the inquest, noting it was impossible even to confirm whether Mrs Vincent had fallen, although “clearly she suffered an injury”.

She said: “The events leading to this injury were unwitnessed and Mrs Vincent was unable to explain it.

“I think to find natural causes would not be supported wholly on the evidence and to find accidental causes would not be supported either.”

Forest View Care Home is rated ‘good’ – the second highest rating – by the Care Quality Commission in all areas of its practice.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter