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
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
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
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,
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
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
© Express Newspapers Ltd