Stanley Simmons fell to his death at secure council-run unit run by KCC
Hospital - also below
“One minute he was there – then he was gone.”
These were the chilling words that described how an elderly
resident in a Kent County Council-run home plummeted to his death
from a secure unit for dementia patients.
Stanley Simmons, of Oak Drive, Higham, had been admitted to the
Opal Two unit at Gravesham Place, part of Gravesend community
hospital, on November 1 last year after his wife was taken ill.
Four days later the 87-year-old retired factory manager climbed
over a balcony balustrade and fell three floors to his death as
care staff in the unit sought help.
He suffered multiple injuries.
Coroner Roger Hatch told an inquest jury in Gravesend this week:
“You may find it surprising that an 87-year-old man was able to
climb that balcony, but we have heard he had no problems with
“It may be possible he was attempting to leave because he was
anxious about his wife.
“We shall never know, of course.”
The jury decided his death was misadventure.
Staff told how Mr Simmons had disturbed them as they were
writing his care programme in the unit’s dining area.
They found him on the balustrade.
Christine Johnson, one of the carers, said: “I saw Mr Simmons
hanging on the other side of the balcony.
“My colleague ran round to get some help. I took a second look
and he had gone. I just shouted out in shock.”
Peter Ward was visiting his own wife at the hospital.
He heard the shout from the balcony as he was walking nearby. He
then saw Mr Simmons lying on the grass at the foot of the
He told the inquest he had expressed concerns about the open
balconies, fearing for his wife.
Several witnesses told the jury it was normal for the doors
between the lounge, dining area and balcony to be kept open all
day, even in November.
This was because the clients’ communal rooms got very hot.
Care staff said they kept an eye on all clients when on the
balcony, but a closer watch on any who were distressed or
That afternoon staff had noted Mr Simmons was anxious, but they
had not seen him go to the balcony.
Peter Widdowson from the Health and Safety Executive said the
area had since been altered and met the latest health and safety
The Care Quality Commission had criticised the Opal units the
They had called for enough staff on duty to keep people safe and
meet their health and welfare needs.
Four days after Mr Simmons’ death they carried out a spot
By then, the Opal units had sufficient staff for meeting care
needs, but not enough leaders taking charge, or sufficient staff to
provide residents with activities, said the commission.
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