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'I hope this happens to nobody else,' says son of hospitalised 80-year-old Wick man who suffered a fortnight of agonising pain


By David G Scott

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A Wick man said he felt there was no choice but to "abandon" his elderly father at Caithness General Hospital (CGH) after failing to get the medical treatment he needed after a fall.

James Farquhar, a self-employed businessman and coastguard volunteer, contacted the Groat to help make sure "nobody else" is treated the way he claims his 80-year-old father, Charlie Farquhar, was by medical personnel and social services after he spent two agonising weeks waiting to get sufficient help for a broken hip – a very serious injury with high mortality rates in the elderly.

"I tried to get the head of social services to resolve any issues but she wouldn't speak to me and wanted me to go through the complaints procedure," said James who has now lodged an official complaint over failures in the system that left his father suffering in pain.

Charlie Farquhar in a picture his son James wished to share showing him in Raigmore Hospital.
Charlie Farquhar in a picture his son James wished to share showing him in Raigmore Hospital.

Charlie Farquhar is someone who rarely complains about illnesses or runs to doctors when in pain, according to his son. James describes his father as a product of his generation who rarely made a fuss about things, so when his dad talked about a painful injury after a fall at home he knew there had to be something seriously wrong. "He never bothered or went near a doctor," he said.

James says his dad had been at sea and still fished up Wick river until about five years ago. Then he had a heart attack in May 2019 and was diagnosed with advanced dementia but despite that James says that he never had a serious fall before the one on November 4 this year when he collapsed at home and broke a table.

After last month's fall, Charlie was given paracetamol and Voltarol gel to control the pain but it got worse over the next few days until James took his dad to CGH on November 8. Charlie was refused an X-ray and was only given a dihydrocodeine tablet before being sent home.

Charlie Farquhar was never one for complaining or going to doctors according to his son, James.
Charlie Farquhar was never one for complaining or going to doctors according to his son, James.

As the pain got worse over the next couple of days, James again asked for an X-ray for his father but was again refused and he then contacted social services to have his dad assessed but "was told if they had time they might".
By November 12, Charlie was in agony saying that he "couldn't take it any more". James said: "I made the decision at that point that I needed to get my dad the help he needed whatever it took."

He added: "I advised I was going to contact the police as this was neglect of an elderly man from medical centre, hospital and social services. They all let me down, as well as my father." A locum GP in Wick eventually prescribed Oramorph (liquid morphine solution) but over the weekend of the 13th and 14th Charlie said he was in extreme pain and could not sleep with it despite the morphine analgesic.

Charlie seemed to recover a little by the Monday, however, and James claims he then received a call from a mental health nurse saying "didn't you make a fool of yourself" for making such a fuss. By the evening of that same day, Charlie was "crying in pain" though.

"I made the decision to contact the emergency social services and advised that of 12pm tomorrow [November 16] I would no longer be caring for my father. I thought this would guarantee dad the help and support he needed. How wrong was I."

Caithness General Hospital in Wick where the family said they were forced to 'abandon' the elderly man. Picture: DGS
Caithness General Hospital in Wick where the family said they were forced to 'abandon' the elderly man. Picture: DGS

The next day James was pinged by Test and Trace and needed to isolate, so his partner Liz McPhee went over to Charlie's at around 3pm to find him still in pain and with nobody attending to him. Liz phoned for an ambulance but this was refused as the 80-year-old was able to sit in a chair. Eventually a doctor phoned and said Charlie should be taken to CGH but on arrival there Liz was "advised this is not something the hospital would normally deal with". James' partner said she felt she had no choice but to "abandon" the elderly man there to get the help he required.

James was contacted by the hospital that evening and told that CGH does not deal with "respite cases". He told them that it was not respite his father needed but proper care for his injury.

On Wednesday November 17, Liz got a phone call from CGH saying that after Charlie complained of pain in his thigh and back "a scan was done which showed he had a broken hip". The next day Charlie was transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where he had an operation to replace half his hip along with a ball joint and is now recovering from that.

Charlie had major hip surgery at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and is currently recovering there. Picture: DGS
Charlie had major hip surgery at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and is currently recovering there. Picture: DGS

James said: "When I went down to see him he didn't know what day of the week it was or anything. He was delirious and I didn't last five minutes. I just couldn't bear it." He is adamant that if his father had received treatment earlier on he may not be in the state he is at present.

"He got shattered and tired and along with the dementia everything just got worse and worse. Three weeks ago this man was in the house and perfect. He was physically and mentally exhausted by the time he got help. The care he's getting in Inverness is fantastic – but before that it was terrible. You wouldn't treat an animal like that."

NHS Highland was contacted and a spokesperson said: "We are very sorry that the care fell below the standard expected. We will be looking at this in detail to understand what happened. We will also be in touch with the family."


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