Care staff refuse to help elderly up stairs because of ‘health and safety’

ELDERLY residents living in sheltered accommodation are trapped in their flats and “becoming depressed” while their lift is fixed, because staff have been ordered not to help them up and down stairs due to health and safety.

Maintenance works are being carried out on the lift at Peter Sell House in Hitchin, rendering it out of use for three weeks.

But residents – many of whom have mobility problems – cannot be helped by staff or wardens, because provider North Hertfordshire Homes (NHH) claims it is a health and safety risk.

According to resident Eileen Marshall, many people are unable to leave their homes because they cannot get up and down the stairs without any help.

Eighty-six-year-old Mrs Marshall, who has had two hip replacements and has a bad knee, has herself faced a struggle to leave her flat.

She said: “Going down is not too bad, but coming up is giving me a headache and heartburn.

“Very few people are now managing to get down the stairs, because they have all sorts of awful things wrong.

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“I like to go and get some fresh air on the patio, but there’s no-one there at the moment.

“There’s one man with learning difficulties who is getting very depressed because I can’t get down to chat to him like I often do.

“He’s feeling very frustrated, he’s not getting any attention.

“I’ve also got a friend who’s got a broken foot and she can’t come out at all.”

Mrs Marshall, who has lived in the building for 12 years, said many people are unable to do their laundry because the facilities are on the ground floor.

“All in all, it’s a very bad situation,” she added.

“There’s no-one fighting for us.”

Replacing the part on the lift started on September 3, meaning residents still have nearly two weeks before it is completed.

NHH admitted it was an “inconvenient situation”, but claimed helping residents would actually be more dangerous.

Andrew Buchan, head of care and supported housing at NHH said: “Residents with care needs continue to be looked after to the same standard as before.

“Residents who feel able can use the staircase, although four less-mobile residents will need to remain in their flats while the work is completed.

“It would be unwise for our staff to offer manual assistance to residents on the staircase as there is an increased risk of falling by one or both people.

“Staff and other residents are making sure those unable to move far have people stopping by to check they remain well and have any shopping, laundry or other chores done.”