Nursing home owner faces neglect charges

THE owner of a Littlehampton nursing home made fun of a schizophrenic patient, and left the premises without professional cover, a misconduct hearing was told this week.

Chandnee Gokhool, the owner of Dial House, Maltravers Road, also allowed a member of staff to live and sleep in a patient's room for nearly three months, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has heard.

Another member of staff was permitted to give medication to patients even though she was not qualified, it was alleged.

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Some of the breaches came to light when an inspection team made a surprise visit to the home in May, 2002, after an anonymous note was passed to the Social Care standards unit, claiming that registered nurses were not on duty at all times.

Inspector Christine Williamson told how she pulled back a curtain in a top-floor "penthouse" during the visit, and found another bed.

She also saw the care assistant's belongings stored in the cramped space. Mrs Williamson added: "She was actually living there behind that curtain. The only thing behind it was a bed, it was only a small area.

"It is absolutely not acceptable for a patient to share a room with a member of staff."

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Mrs Gokhool, 50, later claimed it had only happened for a few days and promised to deal with the problem.

Other allegations came to light after a nurse at the home, Alvina Bhatti, complained to the professional council about false accusations Mrs Gokhool made that she had been sexually assaulted by Mrs Bhatti's husband.

Giving evidence at the hearing, in London, Mrs Bhatti said she reported the owner's misconduct in "revenge" for the alleged attempt to ruin her marriage. She claimed mother-of-three Mrs Gokhool had in fact "tapped up" her husband and repeatedly called him at their home.

Mrs Gokhool was accused of regularly going home at 7.30am after working the early shift to "freshen up" '” leaving patients without a registered nurse on duty.

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Mrs Bhatti said Mrs Gokhool gave her permission to administer medication, although as a non-registered nurse she was not qualified to do so, while the owner was absent on a teaching assignment on Saturdays. On these days, from 7.30am to 10.30pm, Mrs Bhatti was left in control.

She also claimed Mrs Gokhool mocked a patient who shuffled around the home by shouting: "I don't want to see your peacock dance."

The patient, said Mrs Bhatti, "was upset and tearful".

In her evidence, inspector Mrs Williamson said the team made at least five visits to the home to make sure it was up to standards.

But she denied threatening to close Dial House during an inspection in June 2002.

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Catherine Ewins, for Mrs Gokhool, said the owner had burst into tears when the inspection team arrived, unannounced. She asked: "Do you accept the tenor of the inspectors was intimidating?"

Mrs Williamson replied: "No I do not."

She added: "We discussed the fact that the home did not meet the current standards which needed to be met by 2007.

"She said she didn't feel that was a problem. We never suggested closure."

Notice of a proposal to cancel the registration of the home with the local authority was issued but later withdrawn, the hearing was told.

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Mrs Williamson admitted later inspections of the home revealed no further problems and an improvement in standards.

Mrs Gokhool denies leaving the home without registered nurse cover, making fun of a resident, permitting unregistered staff to administer medication and permitting a member of staff to share a bedroom with a resident.

She has admitted a separate charge of leaving the home without registered nurse cover and is expected to give evidence today (Wednesday).

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