Woman with cancer unable to bathe for months after council works delay

Doreen Johnson

Doreen Johnson, 91, used to chair Great Yarmouth Community Centre, but now has terminal cancer and relies on support from carers and family. Her loyal dog is always around to keep her company - Credit: Sarah Burgess

A 91-year-old woman with terminal cancer left waiting more than three months for home repairs said she's "never known anything like it" in her 46 years as a council tenant.

Doreen and Glenn Johnson

Doreen Johnson and her son Glenn, who wrote many letters to GYBC himself which were never answered - Credit: Sarah Burgess

Doreen Johnson, from Cobholm Close, Great Yarmouth, has accused Great Yarmouth Borough Council of "messing her around" after the top floor of her house was flooded in August following heavy rain.

A hole in the roof of her back bedroom originally appeared two years ago, but was only mended with a plastic covering after water poured through again this summer - rendering her sockets unsafe and causing damp in the room where her carer sleeps. 

plastic cover

The hole in the roof in her upstairs bedroom had been secured with a plastic cover after storms and heavy rain in August, meaning the room was getting damp and mouldy - Credit: Sarah Burgess

At the time, the council's contractors came to secure the back bedroom, but in the process removed the socket her electric chair was plugged into, causing it to malfunction.

She was unable to get upstairs and had to rely on strip-washes and a commode because she could not reach the bathroom.

destroyed plug socketq

The socket in the back bedroom was ripped out by engineers who unplugged Mrs Johnson's electrical chair, which meant she had no way of getting upstairs between August and December - Credit: Sarah Burgess

"I went three and a half months without a bath", Mrs Johnson said. "I shouldn't have to be dealing with this at my age and when I'm so unwell. It's despicable. I rang them time and time again about the repairs but heard nothing, and that made me so angry."

Electrical chair

Her electric chair was out of action for three and a half months, meaning she was unable to have a bath - Credit: Sarah Burgess

She had been sleeping on her living room recliner during that time as the water damage also caused "disgusting mould" in her own downstairs bedroom.

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The council apologised for the delay and visited the property earlier this month.

A GYBC spokesperson said: "Following a temporary repair, the roof repairs are now fully complete.

"While we appreciate it can be frustrating for tenants, factors affecting speed of completion can include the size and complexity of job, availability of labour and weather conditions.


The mould in Mrs Johnson's bedroom, caused by water damage, meant she no longer wanted to sleep in there. Instead, she slept on her recliner in the living room for three and a half months - Credit: Sarah Burgess

“Originally, the plug socket had to be isolated and made safe by a trained electrician due to water ingress.

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"Our engineer has since replaced the single socket, putting in a conversion box to make it a double socket. We apologise for any issues this caused.
“During these works, GYN have kept in continuous contact with the tenant to update on progress.”

Mrs Johnson said: "GY Norse finally came to do the repairs a couple of weeks ago, and an inspector told us the entire ceiling in the back bedroom would now have to be replaced because of asbestos.

"I've never known anything like it."

scaffolding doreen johnson house

After GY Norse carried out some external roof repairs last month, the scaffolding was left on Mrs Johnson's house for weeks until a query from this newspaper sped up its removal - Credit: Sarah Burgess

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