10:59am Wednesday 12th January 2005
By Bede MacGowan
A CARE home for elderly people with learning disabilities is being investigated by police after a resident was found drowning in a bath.
Pensioner Audrey Phelps, 75, spent days in intensive care after being found "going blue" under the bath water at Bassett's Centre, Farnborough.
News Shopper understands Bromley Primary Care Trust (PCT) has suspended a member of the nursing staff following the incident on December 23 and launched an inquiry.
This latest incident took place about two years after a police investigation cleared centre staff following an incident in which Irene Clarke, 76, suffered second-degree burns when she sat in a hot bath.
One health worker said: "She had gone blue and nearly drowned.
"It's something which should never happen."
Mrs Phelps, who has lived at the centre for around 15 years, was discharged from the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, on Friday and was expected back at Bassett's that day.
Nursing union chiefs linked the incident to the proposed transfer of the borough's learning disabilities service to the private sector, which would involve the closure of the centre and the transfer of around 350 NHS nurses and care workers.
Bromley PCT Unison secretary Mickey Crouch said: "This incident is a tear-jerking episode which has upset the workforce.
"We're prepared to use it as another example of Bromley PCT running down the learning disabilities directorate for the forthcoming transfer of services.
"Unison is strongly against TUPE (the transfer of staff) and the outsourcing of healthcare. The NHS is the best place for trained staff and clients."
Morris Lancod, 81, whose sister Anita, 76, is a resident, said: "All I can say is my sister is cared for extremely well there.
"I like the status quo, we don't want private business involved.
"I'm totally against closing the centre, they should keep it NHS and let the staff get on with it."
A Met Police spokesman said: "We can confirm officers from Bromley Community Safety Unit are investigating an allegation of common assault on a 75-year-old woman at a residential address at Tugmutton Close, Farnborough."
A PCT spokesman said: "The PCT refutes any suggestion services for people with learning disabilities are being run down.
"The changes which started nearly three years ago, in consultation with interested parties, will produce improvements for clients."
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