Hillcroft nursing home staff guilty of abuse

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Media captionMichael Rowlinson, representing victims' families: "The difficulty of the job does not excuse mistreatment on any level"

Three care workers have been found guilty of abusing elderly residents of a care home in Lancashire.

The female staff members at Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest near Lancaster mocked, bullied and assaulted residents, Preston Crown Court heard.

A fourth male staff member previously pleaded guilty to ill-treating the residents.

The defendants told other staff they were bored and were doing it for entertainment, prosecutors said.

Team leader Carol Moore, 54, of Ripon Avenue, Beaumont, Lancaster, abused six residents, including slapping one.

Tipped out of wheelchair

Katie Cairns, 27, of Riverview Court, Westgate, Morecambe, abused four residents - stamping on the foot of one and mocking others by throwing bean bags at them and touching them.

Gemma Pearson, 28, of Hill Street, Carnforth, tipped a resident out of a wheelchair.

Darren Smith, 34, of Howgill Avenue, Lancaster, had earlier pleaded guilty to ill-treating eight residents and the court heard he was seen in bed with a distressed resident.

Det Insp Andy Hulme said the staff members "showed a total disregard for their wellbeing, displaying contemptible behaviour that should never be tolerated".

Their actions "caused considerable distress to the victims, and it has been very distressing for their families to hear about it", the Crown Prosecution Service said.

All were charged under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 with ill-treatment and wilful neglect of a person with lack of capacity.

Image caption There are five privately-owned Hillcroft nursing homes in north Lancashire

They had previously been suspended from the home following abuse allegations made by a receptionist and a cleaner in September 2011, the court heard.

Whistleblowers praised

But they returned to work after being handed warnings as a result of an internal investigation and the matter was not referred to the police or social services.

The court heard that in December 2011, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was sent anonymous emails about the standard of care inside the home.

The CQC referred the matter to the local authority's safeguarding team who informed police in May 2012.

In a statement, relatives of the victims criticised "failings" of managers at Hillcroft, Lancashire County Council, NHS North Lancashire and the CQC.

They also praised the courage of whistleblowers.

They said: "To work in a challenging behaviour unit must be incredibly difficult, requiring patience and understanding, not to mention training and professionalism, but the difficulty of the job does not excuse mistreatment on any level."

The home's owner said all those involved have now left and it is under new management.

The former staff are due to be sentenced in January.

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