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‘Why does care home still not have a defibrillator?’

73-year-old died day before lockdown – 2 years after tragedy led to life-saving device warning

06 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot

THE family of a former pub chef say it is “appalling” that a care home did not install a potentially life-saving defibrillator, despite calls to do so following a tragedy two years ago.

Irene Queen, 73, who lived in Highgate and worked in the old Brunswick pub and at the Totnes Castle (now The Star), died in the Gospel Oak Court care home a day before the lockdown was announced in March.

Her granddaughter, Leanne Booth, believes a defibrillator device – which can restart a stopped heart – could have saved her life.

Ms Booth said: “My nan’s heart stopped while someone was with her. She died from ischemic heart disease. It might have helped, who knows? In any case, I think it’s appalling they don’t have one in a care home.”

The care home’s operators, Shaw Healthcare, said two years ago they were looking at installing a defibrillator and training staff after an elderly woman died of heart failure in the street outside.

Irene Queen died just before the lockdown

A front-page story in the New Journal told how passers-by who had tried to save her, had rushed into the home and asked for the device, only to be told none was available.

At that time the company said it was “looking at the possibility” while adding the “issue of hosting a defibrillator” was one faced by the “UK care industry as a whole as there is no regulatory or legal requirement”.


Leanne said Ms Queen, who had lived in Highgate for 40 years, “was known by everybody”.

She added: “My nan was practically my mum, she pretty much raised me. It was like losing my mum and it has been very difficult grieving while stuck indoors. “She used to foster children and she worked as a cook in the old Brunswick pub and the Totnes. She was funny, chatty. She loved a good party and listening to John Holt records.”

Ms Queen had been in the care home since August 2018. “Nan was constantly calling me up in tears saying she had been left and she was being ignored,” said Ms Booth. “She would beg me to come up. She could be difficult, and I know it’s a demanding job for staff there. It takes a certain type of person to deal with the enormous pressure. But that’s the job.”

In 2006 Shaw Healthcare won a 25-year contract to build and run Camden Council’s Gospel Oak Court and Maitland Park care homes. Ms Booth said she felt “fobbed off” by Shaw’s official complaints process and wants the company to show her the home’s call logs to prove they tried to contact her. She added: “I am not looking for compensation, nothing can bring my nan back.”

Martin Vanhinsbergh, regional operations director for Shaw, said: “Firstly, we would like to extend our condolences to all of Mrs Queen’s family. We have responded to the initial complaint personally which we hope addresses the points raised and documents our attempts of how we tried to do everything we could with the number provided and a promise to try and improve on our processes in the future.”

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