Life of company founder 'cruelly cut short' by failings, family claims

Touching tributes have been paid after the death of Ron Harrod, aged 89.

Tributes were paid after the death of Ron Harrod, aged 89. Picture: Courtesy of the Harrod family - Credit: Courtesy of the Harrod family

The life of an "inspirational" company founder was "cruelly cut short" after hospital failures, his family has claimed.

Ron Harrod died aged 89 on December 29, 2020, weeks after falling off a trolley at the James Paget University Hospital's accident and emergency department.

A medical cause of death was established at an inquest at Norfolk Coroner's Court on Friday, November 12, as Alzheimer's, which he had been diagnosed with in 2012, with old age and a fractured hip from the fall as contributing factors.

Mr Harrod, at the Harrod Close road sign in Lowestoft.

Mr Harrod, at the Harrod Close road sign in Lowestoft. Picture: Harrod UK - Credit: Harrod UK

Mr Harrod, who had been a resident at Grandora Care Lodge in Blundeston since 2018, founded Harrod UK Ltd in Lowestoft, which went on to become a leading global manufacturer in sports equipment.

In a statement read to the inquest, his daughter Stephanie Harrod said: "He left the care home about 3pm and, owing to a queue of ambulances, he was finally admitted to the hospital at 4.40pm.

"My father was still happy and smiling and very polite and still recognised my mother, myself and my brother.

"Once admitted into hospital, he was left in on a trolley a Covid room despite not having Covid. At some point, he fell off the trolley."

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Neither Mr Harrod's family, or the Grandora Care Lodge staff, were made aware of the fall until the next morning when he returned to Blundeston.

Ms Harrod said: "My father arrived back at the care home clearly distressed at 7.30 the next morning in an open gown with just a thin blanket and it was only when the care home manager was reading the discharge summary sent him that we knew he had fallen off the trolley.

"Nobody knew why we weren't informed or why he hadn't been given an x-ray.

"At that point, the care home manager called an ambulance to take him back in a worse condition than when they took him in.

"My father sadly passed away at the care lodge after our insistence that he be discharged again so he could spend his final days or weeks at home since he had deteriorated so much since his admission.

"We believe his passing was brought on by his fall from the hospital trolley when he broke his hip and needed a hip replacement operation, which he failed to recover from.

"Secondly, he was suffering from Alzheimer's dementia but prior to being admitted into hospital he could communicate, walk a short distance, feed himself, play games with carers and spent many hours colouring every day.

"He could do none of this when the care home received him back. 

"This challenges any belief from us that the NHS cares for its patients since he was happy and coping very well with his condition until his life was cruelly cut short by, in our opinion, gross negligence by the JPUH."

Dr Duncan Peacock, consultant in emergency medicine, said the night Mr Harrod was initially admitted was "very busy, with ambulances waiting outside to offload."

Mr Harrod was placed on a Covid ward upon his arrival, with his notes incorrectly saying he had recently tested positive for the virus. 

Dr Peacock said: "There was a commotion and it was evident he was on the floor and appeared to have climbed over the cot sides.

"He didn't seem neurologically any different to how he was before and was trying to get up himself. There was no evidence he had any discomfort or was in pain.

"I was shocked to learn he had a fracture when I found out the next day."

Concerns were also raised about Mr Harrod's care in hospital, with a care home worker, who had travelled with Mr Harrod, reporting a nurse was "shouting and pulling him around" during treatment, despite his dementia. 

Joanna Wadsworth, sister at the JPUH, said: "We have done a tremendous amount of education on dementia and have learned an awful lot from the situation and are trying to improve in the area."

In a short narrative conclusion following the hearing, area coroner Yvonne Blake said: "Mr Harrod was unwell and was sent to hospital with a suspected infection.

"While in hospital, he fell of his hospital trolley, while the bed rails were up, and sustained a fractured neck of femur.

"This was not recognised at the time and he was sent home the next morning.

"At the care home, some shortening and external rotation of his right leg was noted and he was sent back to hospital.

"He had a hemiarthroplasty and seemed stable surgically, but he never really recovered to his pre-fall baseline.

"In hospital, he began to have difficulty with swallowing.

"He returned to his care home on December 22, 2020, and was cared for there until his death on December 29, 2020."

Tributes have been paid to Ron Harrod.

Tributes have been paid to Ron Harrod. Picture: The Harrod family - Credit: The Harrod family

'Inspirational' company founder

With a strong work ethic, Mr Harrod helped his mother on the family tea stall when he was 12 - and he never looked back.

After two years of national service in the RAF as a mechanic, it was back in 1954 that a 23-year-old Mr Harrod and his wife Margaret started the business Harrod of Lowestoft, which is now more commonly known as Harrod UK, Harrod Sport and Harrod Horticultural.

After Mr Harrod started to convert old herring nets into garden netting, using skills traditionally associated with the town’s fishing industry, the family firm has gone on to employ several hundred people and be recognised as a market leader nationally and internationally.

Always encouraging his staff to "just have a go", Mr Harrod will be remembered for always being impeccably dressed with a smile that would light up any room.

Mr Harrod knew the names of everyone that worked for him, and took great interest in their families and welfare.

Believing that his staff were the key to his success, Mr Harrod is fondly remembered for his weekly chocolate bar and ice cream treats, all delivered personally by him with a ‘thank you’ to all.

If staff were of the utmost importance to Mr Harrod, then it was the 'Customer that was King' - a statement that was at the forefront of everything the company would do.

As a great ambassador of the company and Lowestoft, Mr Harrod was proud that his family run business was supplying the likes of Wembley Stadium, the Olympic Games and the Royal Horticultural Society.

With goalpost safety a passion for Mr Harrod, in 1989 he was instrumental as a founder member of the Comité de Européan Normalisation (CEN), holding the position of UK representative for sports posts for over 10 years.

Throughout his working life, the company won many awards with his ethos and legacy still as strong as ever today in keeping more than 130 people employed.

A highly active Rotarian, his fundraising raffles and bottle stalls at events "were legendary".

Another legacy that will live on is the Ron Harrod Foundation, a trust set up in 2018 with the aim of offering support to local budding young athletes to succeed in their chosen sports.