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Holloway carer’s death ‘due to natural causes’ ruling

Woman’s collapse while looking after ‘aggressive’ 95-year-old with dementia sparked probe

12 April, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Carer Molly Frank, ‘at the centre of a tight-knit family’

AN INQUEST has found that a carer died from “natural causes” after she collapsed while looking after an “aggressive” 95-year-old with dementia at his home in Holloway.

The jury at St Pancras Coroner’s Court concluded that Molly Frank, 61, died from a brain bleed following an aneurysm just 24 hours after she complained of a “head­ache” to a colleague while working a night shift as a carer in May last year

The court heard witness evidence from Ms Frank’s colleagues, paramedics and pathologists during the three-day long hearing examining the circumstances around her death.

Islington Council had contracted London Care – where Ms Frank worked – to provide round-the-clock care to Ahmed Siddeki and his wife Fatima, which included feeding and washing the couple.

Forensic pathologist Dr Charlotte Randall told the court on Tuesday that the aneurysm in Ms Frank’s brain – a bulge in the blood vessel which can burst – had been building up for a long time before she died.

She said: “It could have ruptured at any time because of a stressful situation that put her blood pressure up.” The court heard that Ms Frank suffered from high blood pressure and frequent migraines.

The doctors and paramedics who initially treated Ms Frank believed that she may have suffered a brain injury after being hit on the side of the head by Mr Siddeki.

Detective Sergeant Simon Cormack, from Holborn police station, told the court that he was involved in the investigation into Ms Frank’s injury.

He decided that “no further action was necessary” against Mr Siddeki, who “did not have the capacity” to be interviewed by police.

The inquest was told that Ms Frank had called police a year before her death when she locked herself in the bathroom after she was “chased” by Mr Siddeki .

Pamela Mbeta-Buhika, who also worked as a carer for the couple, told the jury that the 95-year-old was “very aggressive sometimes, depending on his mood”.

She described how he would attack his carers with his “Zimmer frame”.

Ms Frank had only just returned to care for the couple in the month before she died after being paired with another carer.

The jury were told that Ms Frank was working the night shift with fellow carer Ms Mbeta-Buhika when she became ill. Ms Mbeta-Buhika told the inquest that they were both changing Mr Siddeki at around 4am with Ms Frank holding his arms.

“She [Ms Frank] said: ‘Stop hitting me’ and almost at the same time she said: ‘I have a headache’,” said Ms Mbeta-Buhika.

“She was walking towards the wardrobe holding her head saying: ‘This headache is different.’ She changed. I tried helping her and told her to sit down. I ran and got a pillow on her head.

“I said: ‘You’re changing. I have to call an ambul­ance’.”

She said her “close friend” had told her not to call an ambulance.

Patrick Thompson paid tribute to Ms Frank, his “partner of 20 years”, in a statement read out to the inquest.

He said Ms Frank was “at the centre of a tight-knit family” and loved being a carer.

Zero-hours contracts review pledge

Cllr Janet Burgess

The council’s health chief has said it will be “undertaking a review of the use of employment contracts” after it was revealed that a carer was on a “zero-hour contract” when she died despite a Town Hall pledge to avoid such contracts, writes Emily Finch.

A jury concluded that carer Molly Frank, 61, died of “natural causes” while looking after a 95-year-old with dementia last May.

She worked for London Care, contracted by the Town Hall to look after elderly residents.

The council signed a pledge six years ago with trade union Unison, called the Ethical Care Charter. It said it would commission care only from providers who “do not use zero-hour contracts”.

The jury heard from carer Pamela Mbeta-Buhika on Monday that Ms Frank “did zero-hour contract, where if you called in sick you would not get paid”. Zero-hour contracts allow employers to hire people without guaranteed hours.

She did not know if her colleague ever took time off work to go to the doctor. “If you’re sick one week, you’re sick 10 days, you don’t get paid,” she said. “We worked hard to pay the bills.”]

London Care is a subsidiary of City & County Healthcare Group, based in Baker Street.

Town Hall health and social care chief Janet Burgess told the Tribune this week: “Islington Council does not support the use of exploitative, zero-hour contracts that prevent employees from taking on work with another employer.

“Through our work with home care providers and the staff that provide care we know that flexible contracts are often preferred by staff. For example, this can help them manage their own care commitments. We are clear that these contracts should only be being used where that is the employee’s preference.”

She added: “We will be undertaking a review of the use of employment contracts in our home care provision to ensure this remains the case.”

A senior spokesman for City & County Healthcare Group said its “own research suggests that most home care workers, in fact, prefer the flexibility that contracts of this kind offer because they allow staff the freedom not to work when they would rather not do so”.

He said that “irrespective of the type of contract, our care workers retain employee status, with full entitlement to all that entails, including paid annual leave and statutory sick pay”.

He added: “However, we do know that some staff would prefer guaranteed hours and we continue to offer such contracts where it is commercially viable to do so. This is only usually the case where the additional cost of guaranteeing hours is reflected in the price paid for care by the councils that commission our services.”

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