Elderly woman in UK care home died because migrant staff calling police couldn’t speak basic English

In August 2022, Barbara Rymell, 91, died at the Ashley House care home in Langport, England due to the immigrant staff not being able to describe to the 999 operator that she was trapped after falling off of a mechanical stairlift and the situation was an emergency. 

According to The Times, an inspection of the facility by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that the Ashley House "requires improvement" on every measure. 

The inspection found that four members of the staff did not receive fall awareness training "despite there being a high level of falls within the service” and when falls happened, they "were not always managed in line with policy." 

In Rymell's case the two caretakers, one from Romania and the other from India, did not convey that she was trapped by the emergency operator, nor were they able to understand the difference between her being "alive" or "alert," or between "breathing" or "bleeding." A senior coroner told the outlet that this made it "virtually impossible" to assess her condition, and the operator logged it as non-life threatening. 

Elaine Curtis, Rymell's daughter, said the call from the facility telling her what happened left her "frantic" trying to get more information. "They [the care home staff] rang me and their English was very broken. They asked if I was Elaine Curtis and I said ‘yes’ and they said ‘your mother is dead’,” she told the BBC

"That was it, nothing else. I was left for four hours absolutely frantic trying to get hold of the home," she added. "I waited and waited for a call back. We didn’t hear anything and then at midnight, the police came round to break the news to me. I was so desperate to speak to someone who could speak good enough English to explain what was happening with my mum.”

Earlier this year, a follow-up inspection found the Ashley House still "require[s] improvement." In response, Alan Beale, an owner of the Ashley House's parent company, West Care Homes, blamed the government for not setting a minimum language standard for care workers. 

"We have our own policy now of higher English language skills,” he said. "We are extremely sorry for the incident which happened but there has been some extremely inaccurate reporting. We recruit staff that meet the legal standard. What the coroner is concerned about is whether that is a high enough standard."

“We have made a number of changes since the incident and we use less overseas staff and less agency staff,” Beale noted. 

A report from the CQC in April 2020 found that the Ashley House "required improvement" on safety, but was able to maintain an overall "good" rating.

Image: Title: Ashley House
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