a campaign to free Margherita Caminita, a near miss victim of the UK budget driven involuntary euthanasia scandal, now known as the Liverpool Care Pathway scandal

A campaign to free Margherita Caminita, a near miss victim of the UK budget driven involuntary euthanasia scandal, now known as the Liverpool Care Pathway scandal.
Since 1998, she is held in Bedford, Bedfordshire, agaist her will to prevent her from testifying on her own attempt of murder by medics from various Bedfordshires NHS trusts. Please, read more on this here.

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profits: Peter Marr, left, co-owns Dundee FC, and lives in luxury at his mansion near Dundee. But inspectors found fault at his former nursing home Forebank which now has new managers

Scandal of grim trade in frail lives of the elderly

BRITAIN'S elderly are being exploited by ruthless entrepreneurs who finance lavish lifestyles from the profits of their poor-quality residential homes.

The Express has found vulnerable old people languishing in dismal "granny farms", inadequate for their needs, while the homes' owners enjoy Rolls-Royces and mansions. Some have become millionaires from the care home "business" and are set to profit further as the number of elderly in Britain grows.

Yet, as The Express investigation reveals, residents are often subject to shocking maltreatment, being left to wither in armchairs, in rooms stinking of urine, inside buildings falling into disrepair. As Ginny Jenkins, of Action on Elder Abuse, concluded: "Anyone can set up and run an old people's home. The current system is a mess."

THE Brave New World of British nursing homes: modern, purpose-built and gleaming. Forebank old people's home was so clean you could eat off the carpets. But something was lacking.

While staff scrubbed and dusted, 86-year-old Nan Gallagher sat in her chair unable to eat because her false teeth had been lost. No one noticed. Neither did they see that she was in extreme discomfort because her incontinence pads had not been changed.

Nan Gallagher was sliding to her death. She lost eight stone in weight, and was eventually removed from the Dundee home by social workers. It was too late to save her.

Meanwhile, Forebank's owner, millionaire Peter Marr, lives off the proceeds of his nursing home empire in a luxury apartment in Majorca. He is one of a growing band of entrepreneurs who have cashed in on the billion pound business of ageing.

The Express has visited old people's homes across the country pretending to look for a place for a relative. We found many vulnerable people being farmed for profit in unfit conditions, while home owners live in luxury.

Residential home owners do not have to be vetted or be experienced in caring. They only have to prove they have enough money to go into business. Many draw huge salaries. Some use old people to earn money while the property's value appreciates for sale. There was certainly nothing wrong with the building at Forebank. Nan Gallagher's family were impressed with the 200-bed home with its immaculate rooms, pretty wall hangings and bowls of fresh fruit. But the family became concerned that staff were too busy window dressing to attend to their mother.

Nan's daughter Teresa Breitenbach said: "The place looked so good, but staff were too busy cleaning to look after my mother properly. When they lost her bottom teeth it was the beginning of the end for my mum. She'd be given a plate of meat and veg but of course she couldn't chew. We asked and asked for a dentist appointment, which never came. She lost weight rapidly and got so thin and weak she couldn't feed or hold a cup. It was heartbreaking." Nan Gallagher was one of four people at the home whose deaths were investigated by Tayside Health Board. The board's report highlighted "a series of failures".

Mr Marr - the co-owner of Dundee Football Club - resigned as the registered owner of the home during an attempt by the board to remove him. Forebank is now under new management and the health board is happy it is being operated satisfactorily.

He had already made substantial sums of money from nursing homes. His company Duncare, which owned four homes, paid him an annual salary of 56,000 plus 58,000 in dividends. His wife was also paid 60,000. His days are now spent relaxing in the millionaires' paradise of Puerto Portals, Majorca, where he owns a 250,000 apartment. His terrace stretches down to a private pool in well-kept gardens surrounded by security fences. He also owns a 450,000 mansion in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee.

Speaking from his Spanish home yesterday, he said: "The problems at Forebank have been solved. I'm no longer in the nursing home business. Of course I went in to make money and I felt the standard of care was very good. The home was never proven to cause the deaths of people - they die anyway."

Another entrepreneur doing very well out of the "granny farming" business is Larry Graham, 49. He lives in a 26-bedroom Suffolk mansion set in three acres of land with sea views. A Rolls-Royce sits on the driveway. The residents in his two homes - Graham House and Sun Vale, both near Felixstowe - are not so lucky. The local authority found decor damage, water seepage, badly worn carpets, and rot in one of the homes. The other, Sun Vale, has rusty water stains over the outside walls.

Last year's inspection report found that some staff were not trained in first aid. It concluded that Mr Graham employed too few staff, and those he did have were inadequately trained. The problem, it said, had been made worse by "the sudden departure of staff due to delays in the payment of wages". On one occasion he angered carers when he drew up in his Rolls-Royce to say he could not afford to pay them.

Mr Graham, however, denies the allegations. "If we didn't pay our wages we wouldn't have any staff. I am a responsible and reputable person," he said. Low wages are endemic in the industry. Homes therefore have a high turnover of poorly trained, inexperienced staff.

Grampian Care in Scotland paid staff at its six homes an average annual salary of just 5,156, while its owners, Malcolm Moss and Malcolm Berger, paid themselves nearly 3.5million between 1989 and 1998. When the company went into receivership in June there was little money left. One thousand residents in three homes were left without provision for food. Some staff used their own money to buy supplies even though many were owed wages. Engineers arrived to cut off the electricity because the bills were not paid.

Meanwhile Mr Moss and Mr Berger were living very comfortably. Mr Moss, 64, owns a house near the elite Moor Park golf course in Hertfordshire, where properties can fetch millions. Mr Berger lives in the exclusive Horseshoe Lane in Totteridge, north London.

Charles Hill, sold his two nursing homes in Lowestoft, Suffolk, in May, after the local council threatened to cancel his registration. It had been demanding that he improve conditions for more than five years. In one home residents sat on plastic garden chairs for their meals. In another residents had no lift. One elderly man, unable to walk unaided, hard of hearing and almost blind, complained to inspectors he was lonely. He had been moved upstairs and was so frightened of using the stair lift he rarely went downstairs.

Mr Hill lives in a 500,000 Grade One-listed priory in Horsham St Faith near Norwich. He said: "The standards required have got to such a point that now home owners cannot afford to implement them."

Cransford Hall, a mock Georgian Mansion set in 17 acres near Saxmundham, Suffolk, has an impressive oak-panelled entrance hall. But appearances can be deceptive.

Last October inspectors found poorly trained staff, dirty commodes, and rooms smelling of urine. Residents were washed, dressed and taken to breakfast from 5.45am. Men were shaved in a production-line fashion using just one razor. The proprietors, Kalchand and Nandai Kowlessur, live in the stockbroker belt of Epsom, Surrey. They face losing their registration but are disputing the inspectors' findings.

The reduction in funding from local authorities has meant that smaller homes have had to cut corners in order to make money.

A home in Pinner, Middlesex, attempted to make cash by cramming in more residents than permitted. When inspectors visited Chestnut Cottage one old lady was taken for a walk on a freezing cold night even though she didn't want to go, and a frail 87-year-old lady was hidden in a laundry room for more than an hour.

  • Reporting team: Lucy Johnston, Jonathan Calvert, Michael Gillard and David Connett


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    CRIME IGNORED is CRIME PROMOTED and ENDORSED