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Carer left vulnerable woman lying on floor after fall then went to next appointment

A support worker who left a vulnerable woman lying on a living room floor after a fall and went on to her next appointment has been struck off the care register.

Margaret Howat’s behaviour was branded “shocking” by Scotland’s care watchdog, with the carer herself admitting it was “disgusting”.

Ms Howat was criticised for failing to seek help for the frail woman, who lost her footing while the carer was in another room, and instead wrote in her notes that she had taken a tumble but was “okay” and “settled in the lounge”.

The incident was captured by a motion-activated camera set up in plain sight in the living room.

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) said: “You had been a care worker for 22 years. You knew what ought to be done. A fall was a serious matter.

“You had not seen (the woman) fall. You did not know how heavily she had fallen. You could not know whether she had hit her head.”

Ms Howat tried to encourage and physically assist the woman up from the floor but could not get her back on her feet.

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Unbeknown to Ms Howat, the woman had fallen and broken ribs a few weeks before. The SSSC said the woman could not tell the carer “what was wrong”.

Ms Howat then left the woman kneeling or sitting on the floor and went off to her next appointment without raising the alarm with emergency crews.

‘This incident was shocking’

The SSSC said the woman was not left in a “comfortable spot”, adding: “She was not, as your note put it, ‘okay’ or ‘settled in the lounge’.”

The watchdog said: “This incident was shocking. You left a frail, vulnerable service user on the floor.

“You did not know whether she had been injured in the fall. She was not near her food and drink.

“She was put at risk of harm. Not only was there a risk of harm, but she was also subjected to the indignity of being left where she would not have wanted to be.

“You could easily have remedied the situation.”

The incident happened during a lunchtime visit in December 2022 while Ms Howat was working as a care at home assistant for North Ayrshire Council in Irvine.

The next scheduled visit was not until around 4pm, but the woman’s daughter arrived an hour after Ms Howat’s departure and found her mum “flat on her back on the floor”.

The SSSC said: “Her mother was shaking and visibly and audibly distressed. Her mother could not tell her what had happened.”

The woman’s daughter and neighbour managed to get her settled. The daughter then viewed the video footage and reported the incident.

The SSSC said Ms Howat has not worked as a carer since that day.

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A hearing was held last month, with Ms Howat admitting her fitness to practise was impaired on grounds of misconduct.

Her representative had argued for a suspension and conditions imposed on her care registration, but the SSSC concluded that a removal order was the “appropriate disposal”.

In the SSSC report, published this week, the watchdog stated: “In the view of the panel, your behaviour was shocking. Your word was ‘disgusting’. You also described it as a ‘terrible incident’.”

In defence, the SSSC heard that Ms Howat was regarded as an “excellent” care assistant by her co-workers and had worked for 22 years in the industry without any disciplinary action.

Ms Howat’s health was said to have been a factor in what happened, as well as work-related stress.

But in conclusion, the watchdog said the woman’s safety was “put at risk” and her “dignity was violated” having been left on the floor.

The SSSC noted: “The panel recognised that the decision to remove you from the register will cause harm to your ability to earn a living in your chosen field, in which you had worked in for many years and professed to enjoy.

“It might also be considered to indicate that you are of poor character.

“This is, nevertheless, a case where making a removal order is proportionate to upholding the regulatory aims.”

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