Operation Jasmine inquiry: Justice demand over homes 'neglect'

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Media captionWales' Older People's Commissioner said it was 'a catalogue of failure'

Families at the centre of the UK's biggest inquiry into alleged neglect in a string of south Wales nursing homes have called for a public inquiry.

It follows Gwent Police's seven-year Operation Jasmine which cost £11m and identified 100 potential victims.

But the trial of Dr Prana Das, Paul Black and their firm Puretruce collapsed after Dr Das suffered a brain injury and could not stand trial.

Wales' Older People's Commissioner said it was "a catalogue of failure".

Operation Jasmine was set up in 2005 following concern about neglect in six nursing homes, two of which were owned by Dr Das, who at one time owned 25 homes across south east Wales.

The investigation spanned seven years, involved 75 police staff, and 4,126 statements were taken.

But after nursing home owner, Dr Das, suffered brain damage during a violent burglary at his home in September 2012, the court case against him, company chief executive Paul Black and their company Puretruce collapsed in March.

In BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme, Sarah Rochira, the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, said: "I don't really know any other way of describing it other than a catalogue of failure.

"I've called upon the Welsh government to undertake a public inquiry - a public inquiry into what happened, who was responsible, and to provide the reassurance I think the public is looking for that it couldn't happen again in Wales."

The programme spoke to the relatives of Evelyn Jones, a resident at Brithdir nursing home in New Tredegar, whose case had been investigated as part of Operation Jasmine.

Speaking publicly about what happened for the first time, her family told Week In Week Out they were shocked when Mrs Jones was taken to hospital with a chest infection and staff noticed she had horrific pressure sores.

"It looked like a really bad burn. It was black, blue and sort of festering round the edges. She had two holes in the coccyx area, which was like a two pence piece," explained her granddaughter Ruth Phillips.

"But it was so badly infected that I could see the bones of her back penetrating through these holes. The pain and suffering she must have gone through to be in that state doesn't bear thinking about."

Ms Phillips said the family wondered if they would ever get justice.

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Media captionOlder People's Commissioner for Wales Sarah Rochira condemns "a catalogue of failure"

The programme also discovered the investigation by Gwent Police encountered formidable hurdles.

Detectives were unable to bring prosecutions for serious offences, such as manslaughter and wilful neglect.

Gwent Deputy Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said: "Where you are seeing people who have got pressure sores which are corroded down to the bone; people vomiting faeces they are so constipated; or so dehydrated, it is a significant cause of their death.

"In 2006, now in 2013, nobody would expect anybody to live in those conditions."

There are now growing calls for a public inquiry into widespread neglect in nursing homes.

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith plans to introduce a Private Members' Bill to make nursing home owners and staff more accountable.

Mr Smith said: "We should be pursuing these people for poor care, and if they do provide poor care they should face the full force of the law and they should be prosecuted and made to go to prison for any criminal activity."

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales programme, Labour MP for Caerphilly Wayne David, who called for a public inquiry into standards in care homes six years ago, said: "What [it has] highlighted is the inadequacy of the law where older people are concerned.

Image caption Dr Prana Das was left brain damaged after a violent burglary at his home

"We have an ageing population and more and more people are depending on residential care and we want the best possible standards and the best possible care.

"It's important to have piece of mind... to make sure this never, ever happens again."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We are aware of the older people's commissioner's intent to raise the issue of a public inquiry. Official correspondence has just been received on the matter and we will consider carefully the call for an inquiry before responding.

"The Welsh government takes safeguarding very seriously and we have included measures in the Social Services and Wellbeing Bill to further protect adults at risk.

"This case has been taken into consideration while developing the forthcoming White Paper on regulation and inspection of social care and support in Wales, which will lead to legislation in this government's term."

Week In Week Out can be seen at 22:35 BST on Tuesday 4 June on BBC One Wales.

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