“IF ONLY we had had more help.”

Those were the words from the owner of a care home that was closed down over allegations of neglect.

Taking the stand in the trial where she is accused of neglecting residents in her care, Annette Hopkins spoke for the first time in her defence at Southampton Crown Court.

Part of the charges relate to the lack of records and care plans for residents that was picked up during inspections at The Briars care home in Bitterne Park.

But Hopkins told jurors that she and manager Margaret Priest constantly reviewed and updated paperwork and “put what they (the inspectors) said into practice”.

She insisted that every effort was made to ensure care plans – documents relating to the care of each resident – met requirements set by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).

But she told jurors there was a general feeling among care home owners and managers in the area that not enough help was being given by CSCI to ensure they met the standards.

Hopkins, 64, of Thorold Road, described a seminar held by CSCI that she and Priest went to in order to improve their standards. She said: “It got to the stage where they were saying if you don’t get it right, then you are out.

“But people were asking ‘How can we get it right if there is no one to tell us how?’ We were told that we had to do it for ourselves because each care home was different It wasn’t until another inspection that we knew whether we were doing it wrong.”

She added: “If only we had had more help, and it’s not that I am just saying that because I am here (in court) now. It had been going on for years.”

Hopkins said that the care plans were done for the benefit of the inspectors and that on a day to day basis there were procedures in place to ensure staff were well trained in the care required for each person at The Briars.

She also outlined how she had handed over the day-to-day running of The Briars to Priest because she and husband Graham wanted to spend more quality time together.

“The care home had taken over our lives. We wanted to pull back and not be so hands on,” she said. Her husband had since died.

She said she repeatedly asked Priest to become manager because of her “exceptional” qualities.

Hopkins and Priest, 56, of Lydgate Green, Hightown, deny charges of wilful neglect and ill treatment of residents in their care.