Allegations made in a national newspaper about underfed elderly residents at a Five Oak Green care home

On Sunday 1st April 1962 an article appeared in the national Sunday newspaper 'The People'* alleging that the elderly residents in Capel Hospital, a Five Oak Green nursing care home, were not being fed sufficient food. Below is the article that caused the initial controversy followed by two reports from the 'Kent and Sussex Courier' from the next two editions after the publication of the piece in 'The People' that deal with the local reaction and subsequent inquiry.

The People - Sunday 01 April 1962


FOR the fourth time in a year a cook has quit an old folk's home. And last week the local hospital board announced that an inquiry is to be held into allegations that:

• The cooks were supplied with only six tins of spaghetti for 36 patients;

• The matron's dog was fed with meat from the hospital supplies;

• Only two eggs were used in the baking of cakes for all the patients.

The home is the Capel Hospital, Five Oak Green, near Tonbridge, Kent, which cares for elderly patients considered to be chronic cases.

Never enough

Until three weeks ago, Mr. Norman Jackson, 32, of Albany Road, Chatham, was employed at Capel Hospital as chef. This is how he described conditions: "I was expected to cook lunch and prepare the evening meal for 36 patients. Some were critically ill. But for those who could eat properly the food was insufficient. I was given half a dozen eggs a week for cooking purposes, unless there were scrambled eggs for tea, in which case I got a down eggs for 36 patients. The breakfast consisted of either one egg or one small rasher of bacon. Patients had either one or the other-but never egg and bacon together. Toast was never supplied, although there was morning tea and biscuits. Lunch consisted of a small amount of meat, a spoonful of creamed potatoes per person. and cabbage. To provide this meal I was given a small amount of raw meat-sufficient, in my estimation, to provide for 20 people, not 38. Out of this I had to take a third of the supply for the staff of four people and the remainder-less a portion for the matron's dog went to the 36 patients. I had no direct access to the vegetables. Two cabbages were provided for the patients' lunch. The staff, on the other hand, received a large cauliflower or two or three pounds of brussels sprouts. To provide a sweet I had to make do with four small tins of fruit (household size) among the patients "Two tins were provided for the staff. This happened time and time again. I did protest to matron time and time again. In the end I got so fed up with scrimping and scraping that I decided to quit."

Mrs. Molly Jacob, 35, of Falmouth Place, Five Oak Green who was Mr. Jackson's assistant, has also given in her notice. She said: "During the seven months I have been employed here I have had to manage on meagre rations. I have had to watch the faces of the men patients knowing that they were not getting enough to eat. For instance, last night I had to distribute the contents of six spaghetti tins among 34 patients. With this I gave them a couple of slices of bread and butter each. This, and a bowl of soup, was their last main meal until 7 o'clock the following morning. Several times I have protested. Each time I have been told that all the food available had been issued."


Mrs. Lorraine Kingsley, of Sychem Lane, Capel, who was at one time employed as a domestic assistant at the hospital and did the cooking on several occasions, said she found it almost impossible to make do with the food she was given.

Mrs. Elsie Clark, also of Five Oak Green, who was a cook at the hospital from 1959 to 1961, said she, too, protested that she hadn't enough food to provide proper meals for the patients. "I could not understand it, because when I was in Pembury (a near-by hospital) I got all the food I needed. Matron seemed to ration everything at Capel. To provide tea for all the patients and staff I was allowed one teaspoonful of tea per pot. You can Imagine how strong it was. I had to cut off meat for the dog. And matron got very annoyed if I forgot."

The matron. Miss Margaret Hood. replied frankly to the allegations of her former cook. "This is the first complaint like this I have had In 37 years of nursing." she said, denying that any patients went hungry. "It is quite true that patients do get either one egg or a rasher of bacon for their breakfast-except on Christmas Day. The reason is that most of them don't want eggs and bacon anyway. As for my dog Sue, it true that the meat comes from the hospital supply but it's only the meat which I and Sister Wherry do not eat ourselves-although we are not vegetarians. I pay £265 a year for my keep here and Sister also pays for her board and lodging.

'My budget'

"I admit that I issue only six tins of spaghetti for the 36 patients and four staff. But this is only because most of them don't like it. Those who refuse it get a knob of cheese instead. Actually, most of the patients prefer bread and dripping . . . It's their teeth you know... ." Miss Hood stressed that she had to "watch the budget" But she denied that she was mean with eggs. "It is nonsense to suggest that I allowed only two eggs for the patients' cakes." she declared. "As for my own cakes, I did have a special cake made-but that was only so that I could offer a piece to the pay clerk and the doctor when he visited the hospital. It's a poor thing If I can't offer guests a piece of cake...."

When the chairman of the hospital board. Lt. Gen. Sir Euan Miller, was informed of the allegations about the catering at Capel Hospital he told me that he would arrange an immediate investigation. His prompt action is to be praised. No time should be wasted in finding out whether or not the rations supplied to the hospital are adequate and whether the budget is too small.

Kent & Sussex Courier - Friday 13 April 1962

Four Conduct hospital feeding probe in private


"COURIER" reporters were turned away from an inquiry at Capel Old People's Hospital on Friday which was investigating allegations that patients were underfed. Mr. E. A. Wagstaff, secretary of Tunbridge Wells Hospital Management Committee, who acted as secretary at the inquiry, said: " This inquiry is private; the Press are not invited; I have no further comment to make."

An investigating committee of four, led by Mr. George Lewis, chairman of Capel Hospital Management Committee, then discussed behind closed doors the recent attack made by a Sunday newspaper on catering arrangements at the hospital. Late in the afternoon it was still proceeding. Former cooks at the hospital alleged in the article that the 30 men patients had insufficient food. The article raised a storm of protest from villagers who are connected with the hospital. Mr. W. Lundie Rees, chairman of the League of Friends of Capel Hospital, called it a malicious attack." The hospital chaplain, the Rev. Frank Forbes, Vicar of Tudeley and Capel, said everything possible was done for the old people. Mr. Forbes left the inquiry early : "It is still going on," he said, "but my part in it is finished. I am not allowed to make any comment on what has taken place."

What happened?

After the inquiry, the chairman, Mr. Lewis, refused to disclose its findings; a statement will be published, he said, on Tuesday next week (April 17) - 11 days afterwards. Mrs. Elsie Clark, of Westdene, Five Oak Green, is an ex-Capel Hospital cook who was asked to attend the inquiry. She said: "I was asked a lot of questions about this business and I told them what I thought." What was the food like for the staff ? Mrs Clark said: "I was not allowed a hot meal at the hospital, neither were any of the auxiliary staff. We had one cup of tea during our spell of duty-that's all."

Kent & Sussex Courier - Friday 20 April 1962


ALLEGATIONS in a national Sunday newspaper that patients at Capel Hospital were underfed are without foundation, a committee of inquiry has decided. The committee, which sat on April 6-five days after the allegations appeared-is to submit a full report to Tunbridge Wells Group Hospital Management Committee on April 30. Mr. George Lewis, of 66 Tunbridge Road, Hildenborough, who was chairman of the committee of inquiry, issued the following interim statement to the Press on Monday.

"After a careful consideration of the evidence, the committee is more than satisfied that an ample supply of food Is provided for all patients. This is borne out by letters received from relatives of patients who have visited the hospital regularly. over a long period. No restrictions are placed on the Matron in ordering provisions, and she has a free hand in the selection of provisions, within the limits of reasonable expenditure."

Did Not Attend

Mr. Norman Jackson, for three months a cook at the hospital until he left about six weeks ago, who was responsible for the main allegations in the newspaper report, did not accept the committee's invitation to attend the inquiry, which was held in private on April 6. Hearing that his absence was due to personal reasons, the committee intimated that it would be willing to meet again on Monday to give Mr. Jackson an opportunity to state his case. He did not accept this offer. A spokesman of Tunbridge Wells Group Hospital Management Committee said this week that the inquiry had been held in private because it was felt witnesses would speak more freely if their evidence was not reported fully in the Press. When the full report of the committee of inquiry is presented at the next meeting of the hospital management committee it will also be made available to the Press.

* 'The People' was a British tabloid newspaper founded in 1881. It was sold to The Mirror Group in 1961 and subsequently renamed 'The Sunday People'.