Edinburgh family rescue pensioner found bloodied and freezing cold under bushes outside sheltered housing complex on Christmas night
Sisters Megan and Sarah Binnie - along with cousin Kyle Wynne - climbed their 8ft-high garden fence to access the grounds of Woodthorpe House after alerting the facility’s out-of-hours response service when they heard the man’s “cries for help.”
Dad Derek Binnie called the emergency services after the man, believed to be in his 80s, was found by his daughters lying beneath some bushes and complaining of back pain, close to a back door to the building at around 10:20pm.
Business owner Mr Binnie told the Edinburgh Evening News: “Police said that, frankly, he would not have lasted the night if someone had not heard him.”
Woodthorpe is a sheltered housing complex owned and managed by Viewpoint Housing Association and tenants live independently within individual flats and are free to come and go as they please.
Additional support is provided to tenants by Viewpoint staff on site on a daily basis between 9am and 5pm, except during public holidays over Christmas and New Year, and a remote emergency response out of hours service is provided to tenants by Hanover Scotland.
Shortly after 9pm on Christmas night, Megan said she and her mother were in their back garden in Thorburn Road when they heard a “distressed” cry for help coming over their fence from the grounds of the facility – and a man responded when she shouted back.
The 23-year-old went to the front entrance of the sheltered housing with her father and pressed a buzzer on the door which allowed her to speak with an operator at Hanover Scotland’s 24-hour helpline.
But the family claim they were refused access, told that no staff members were available to investigate due to the holiday and that any residents in distress would be able to pull an emergency cord - despite their insistence that the person’s cries were coming from outside the building.
Mr Binnie said he then spoke to the operator in a more curt manner and stressed the need for emergency services to be called.
Chris Milburn, director of customer services at Hanover Scotland, said the operator immediately contacted emergency services after receiving the concerned call from the family.
Megan, a graduate who works part time at the Gold Tavern, said: “They were not particularly helpful. They just told us to phone the ambulance service ourselves. We did not know if the guy was injured, so we took it upon ourselves to go round to our house and hop over the fence.
“We found the man near the bushes and he was really, really distressed and really cold. He was quite confused. We decided to get some blankets so my sister came back over the fence with them while I spoke to him and reassured him the ambulance was on its way.”
Megan said she saw mud on the man’s face as well as blood on his hand and recalled him complaining of back pain and told her he had been outside for about an hour.
Mr Binnie, who has lived in Thorburn Road for over 20 years, said he flagged down the paramedics when they arrived on the street and showed them into the grounds through a side access which only became apparent once they had climbed the fence.
The elderly man was taken to hospital and later released and is understood to be recovering well.
But Mr Binnie was unable to speak with a manager from Viewpoint about the incident until Tuesday this week and described the response from Hanover Scotland’s operator on the night as “dismissive.”
The 53-year-old continued: “It was very dark and windy and, clearly, he was out there for a long time. I don’t believe this should have ever happened and it should not happen again.
“We have all been quite upset by it but I was pleased with how the girls went about it. They were brilliant and so was Kyle, but the issue for me is the lack of support in place.”
Jean Gray, chief executive officer of Viewpoint Housing Association, said: “One of our tenants from Woodthorpe sheltered housing development in Edinburgh required the attendance of emergency services on December 25, 2020. As tenants of this development live independently, they regularly use the grounds unaccompanied and unaided.
“The health and well-being of our tenants is our primary focus, and we are conducting a thorough investigation into the events of December 25, 2020 in partnership with Hanover Scotland. We are in regular contact with the tenant and their family.”
Mr Milburn also thanked the family for their assistance and concern on the night of the incident and stressed the matter is being investigated by Hanover Scotland to ensure all procedures are as robust as possible to provide excellent care and service for all tenants.
The specific circumstances which led to the incident outside the sheltered housing complex remain unclear.
Colinton Councillor Jason Rust said: "I am pleased that a formal investigation is underway and that Viewpoint is pursuing this matter.
"Clearly where a person's life was potentially at risk this was a worrying situation and it is important that processes and systems involved improve."
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