Sir Montague Levene, the Southwark coroner, presiding over yesterday's inquest into her death, described her condition on arrival at hospital as 'deplorable and appalling'. Mrs Huxstep, 73, had been admitted to hospital from Greystone's nursing home in east Dulwich, south London, in July last year. She had been at the home for four months since suffering a stroke. She had a history of leg ulcers, the court was told, but the condition was minor on arrival at the home, according to doctors.
The brochure for the home discloses that it charges between pounds 300 and pounds 335 per week for residents. Mrs Huxstep's fees were paid by Southwark local authority, though many of the other 60 residents were private. The brochure advertises 'a magnificent building of immense character . . . which has been tastefully converted to provide luxurious accommodation for the elderly'. It adds that the home 'seeks to provide the best nursing care for patients, thus ensuring peace of mind for families and friends'.
Mrs Huxstep's husband, Stanley, 72, claims he alerted staff at the home to the deterioration in her condition and was concerned about the standard of care. 'Her bandages were taken off and I saw maggots on her feet,' he told the court. 'I told him about the maggots and he said, 'That usually happens'.' But Greystone's GP was not alerted to the decline in her condition. He told the court he did not see her sores for three weeks before she was finally admitted to hospital.
The court heard that, after gangrene set into her feet, the pensioner was admitted to King's College Hospital on 24 July, then transferred to Dulwich hospital three days later. Dr Wendy Hildick- Smith said that the patient was in a very poor condition on arrival.
She was bleeding from the rectum, vomiting and had severely infected foot ulcers. 'The ulcers were extensive and covered her left and right feet. They were very infected. The surgeons' opinion was that they were so severe that the only option was to amputate both legs below the knee.'
Dr Hildick-Smith said it was decided to give Mrs Huxstep morphine to deaden the terrible pain she was in so that she might at least be able to rest comfortably. She said: 'It would have taken many weeks for the patient's feet to have deteriorated to such a condition.'
She added that Mrs Huxstep was also in a 'poor nutritional state. She was very thin and looked like she had not eaten for some time.'
The home's nurse manager, Edward Black, told the court that Mr Huxstep had 'interfered' with the care of his wife and 'inhibited proper care'. In particular, he said that Mr Huxstep, described as a devoted and adoring husband, often took his wife to the park and allowed her bandaged feet to drag along the ground thereby risking contamination.
Mr Black said his nurses regularly changed Mrs Huxstep's bandages and acted professionally throughout. None of the staff at the home was prepared to make any further comment yesterday.
The Coroner concluded: 'It would have been more prudent to get her into hospital much earlier.'