Woman’s wound left to ‘fester’ in north Belfast care home

Woman’s wound left to ‘fester’ in north Belfast care home


Image subtitle, Ethna Wilson’s son Gavin, seen here as a child, said it was “hard to even contemplate” what had happened to her

  • Author, Lyndsey Telford
  • Paper, BBC News Northern Ireland

A terminally ill elderly woman died believing she was being neglected in a nursing home that is now facing closure.

Ethna Wilson, 88, was a resident at Parkdean Nursing Home in north Belfast for just over a month before her death in June 2023.

His son Gavin Wilson told BBC News NI that some basic needs had not been met, including a wound that had been left “festering” without treatment for 11 days.

Parkdean said the experiences described by Mr Wilson were “not typical” of what its residents experience.

In a statement, it added: “We continue to work hard to improve our service and are confident that the care we provide is safe, effective and compassionate.”

Home appeals closure decision

The care home in Fortwilliam Park, which cares for up to 64 patients, is currently appealing a decision by the health authority to close it.

In April, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said patients were “suffering avoidable harm” at Parkdean, which is owned by Amstecos Ltd.

A decision notice was issued to cancel the home’s registration after it was found to not meet wound care standards.

Concerns have also been raised about poor patient outcomes in relation to end-of-life care.


Image subtitle, Mrs Wilson said staff at the home were “rude” when turning her over and changing her

Following a Freedom of Information Act request, BBC News NI can reveal that the number of safeguarding referrals made to Belfast Health and Social Care Trust about Parkdean Nursing Home has increased dramatically over the past three years.

In 2021, seven referrals were made to the trust’s adult safeguarding team; in 2022, six referrals were made; but in 2023, the number of safeguarding referrals increased to 40.

Mrs Wilson lived a full and independent life until her 80s, but after a cancer diagnosis she was admitted to Parkdean for palliative care.

‘These words will stay with me’

Her son said complaints about the house began quickly.

“The first thing she said to me was, ‘They’re being very rude to me here,’” he said.

“Those words will always stay with me, because I was kind of like, ‘What do you mean, Mom? Be careful. Like, what do you mean by that?’

“She just said, ‘They’re being rude to me when they’re turning me or changing me.’

“She said, ‘They don’t waste time with me, they don’t talk to me, it’s all rushed.’”

He said a request from his mother for the home to facilitate emotional support to help her come to terms with her diagnosis went unheeded.

“She would love to have a little chat over a cup of tea,” he said.


Image subtitle, Mrs. Wilson at the Great Wall of China

Mrs Wilson’s condition worsened after a nurse visited the home to check on a pre-existing leg wound and discovered it had not been treated since she moved in 11 days earlier.

“She discovered when she assessed my mother that the wound was becoming infected,” Wilson told the BBC.

“It was like an ulcer and it was bleeding and had a very strong odor.

“Mom was saying she was in pain, but she might not have been able to extract what levels of pain and where it was. But I’m sure looking back, that pain would have been horrible.

“Looking back, 11 days seems horrific. It’s hard to even contemplate how a lady who is so fragile and vulnerable in that position, who is supposedly being changed daily and moved, wouldn’t be caught.

“To this day I still can’t understand how this happens.”

The nurse who discovered the injury made a safeguarding referral to the Belfast Trust, which subsequently carried out an investigation into Mrs Wilson’s care.

Poor quality of service

In its report, the investigation team concluded that “there appeared to be no criminal intent in the ‘intentional’ neglect of Ms. Wilson.”

It added that there was “significant evidence to suggest that fractured relationships between staff members, lack of communication and carelessness contributed to the poor quality of care Ms Wilson received”.

In its statement to BBC News NI, Parkdean Nursing Home said it had “cooperated fully” with the investigation.

“A series of actions were agreed and the investigation was closed on January 31, 2024,” he said.

“The experiences described by Mr Wilson are not typical of the experience of Parkdean residents.

“The well-being of our residents has always been our highest priority.”

The statement added that since the home opened in 1984, it has cared for hundreds of patients — the vast majority of whom have been “very happy” with the care they received.


Image subtitle, Mrs. Wilson lived a full life before her cancer diagnosis.

Following the Belfast Trust’s investigation, Mr Wilson said some improvements had been made during his mother’s time at the home – particularly in relation to communication between staff and him.

But he said his mother, who was fully aware of his situation, died believing she was being neglected.

“It was eating away at her because there were so many things she was exposed to on a daily basis that made her think, ‘What is happening to me? Why am I left here? Why am I being so neglected?’” he said.

“I chose this placement with the view that my mother’s end-of-life care would be well managed, safely managed, comfortably managed, she would be as content as she could be. And at no point was that done.”

Mr Wilson said he spoke at one point to the then manager of the home, who admitted: “We let your mother down, I know, and I’m sorry.”

He said the manager had tears in his eyes because he “knew it was all a mess.”

Mr Wilson added he would not put his “worst enemy” in Parkdean and is now calling for the home to be closed.


Image subtitle, Mrs. Wilson with her son and grandchildren

The RQIA told the BBC its decision in April to close the home followed “proportionate and gradual enforcement actions” since August last year.

He said the decision was due to Parkdean’s “continued failure to achieve compliance” with its regulations.

In the past 10 years, five care homes have been closed as a result of RQIA enforcement action.

Parkdean is now appealing the watchdog’s decision to cancel its registration at the Care Tribunal.

As respondent to the appeal, RQIA is currently awaiting a hearing date.

In a statement, it added: “During this time, RQIA continues to work with health and social care trusts, who are engaging with residents and their families directly affected by these circumstances.”

Meanwhile, the Belfast Trust told the BBC it was working closely with families and residents to ensure a smooth transition to a new care home.

“We know this is an anxious time for residents and their families, we want to assure them that their well-being is our priority and that they will be fully supported throughout this process,” he said in a statement.