Disabled Trunch pensioner reduced to tears by care firm

Patricia Burnett. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Patricia Burnett. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A care firm with 66 clients in north Norfolk has come under fire for its treatment of a disabled pensioner.

Wheelchair user Patricia Burnett, 73, has been reduced to tears, and left feeling helpless and frustrated by what she claims is poor care provided by Better Healthcare Services.

Her string of grievances include alleging that one carer failed to turn up, others do not know what they are supposed to do and leave without helping her, some turn up too early, and others are not properly trained.

After months of dissatisfaction, Miss Burnett decided to go public this week after breaking down when she said a new carer had not listened to her, handled her roughly and left her in discomfort.

Norfolk County Council, which has contracted Better Healthcare to provide services, says it is monitoring the firm daily and its performance has improved after earlier concerns.

A boss from the national firm has pledged to investigate Miss Burnett's complaints personally.

Miss Burnett pays £265 per month to receive personal care three times a day.

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Fellow Trunch resident Wendy Wild was Miss Burnett's official carer for five years until about 2005.

She and her husband David have become her friends and act as her spokesmen.

They have written to and telephoned Better Healthcare on her behalf on numerous occasions.

Mrs Wild wrote in January after a carer failed to turn up but, despite many follow-up calls to ask for an answer and report other problems, did not hear back until May.

On some occasions carers had turned up to cook Miss Burnett a meal - which she can do herself - and had left when told she needed personal care, claiming they did not have the training or time to carry it out.

'There is a complete lack of co-ordination and communication, and training is not up to standard.

'You speak to a different person every time you phone, they promise to look into it, and nothing happens,' said Mrs Wild.

'The managers need to get out into the real world and see what's happening and what it's like trying to drive around north Norfolk providing care.'

Her husband added: 'These people are being paid to provide a service. Someone has got to be shouting for the clients.

'People like Pat are vulnerable and of an age where they don't complain.

'If she didn't have us - and a lot of people don't have anyone to speak up for them - I don't know what would happen.'

A county council spokesman said there had been a number of concerns about Better Healthcare Services' quality of care, missed or late calls and medication errors since the contract started in November last year.

But they were now seeing 'a definite improvement', with a new action plan and a new operations manager based in north Norfolk.

Kevin Farr, director of homecare services with Better Healthcare, said all care staff were trained to an extremely high standard and were only allowed to give care unsupervised when they had been assessed as thoroughly competent by a supervisor.

He apologised 'unreservedly' for the missed appointment in December.

'Better Healthcare Services are very passionate about delivering the highest standards of care possible to our customers,' he added.