Managing a care home requires constant vigilance to health and safety. The tiniest slip-ups—like failing to anchor a wardrobe, neglecting to check a window restrictor or forgetting a resident’s dietary needs—can have drastic or even fatal consequences. Each resident has specific needs that you and your employees must pay attention to at all times. Additionally, improper management can result in costly fines and prosecutions from applicable regulators. You need to be aware of the different risks throughout your care home and control them effectively in order to avoid deaths, injuries and fines.
Learn from the mistakes in the following care home prosecutions in order to make sure your care home does not suffer the same consequences.
Notable Care Home Fines and Prosecutions
Care Home Provider Fined Over Fish and Chips Death
- Background: The United Kingdom’s biggest care home provider, Four Seasons Health Care Ltd, was fined £170,000 after a vulnerable 75-year-old resident choked to death on her meal of fish and chips during an entertainment evening at its Chorley premises.
- What Went Wrong: Although the staff was aware that the resident should only eat pureed food since she had difficulties swallowing, two weeks after moving to the facility she was given fish and chips in a cone for a film-and-supper evening at the home. An HSE investigation discovered that the staff member who organised the evening was aware that the resident could not eat solid foods. A lack of organisation and a disregard for detail contributed to the resident’s death.
Care Home Operator Fined for the Death of a Resident with Dementia
- Background: A Hertfordshire care home operator was fined £85,000 and ordered to pay £48,000 in costs after a resident with clinical dementia suffocated because her wardrobe was not properly attached to the wall.
- What Went Wrong: The 64-year-old resident suffered a form of dementia which led to an obsession with clothing and a compulsion to wear excessive layers. As a result, the staff locked the wardrobe in her room to prevent her from gaining access to the clothes inside. When the resident attempted to open the wardrobe, it fell on her, causing the resident to suffocate. The wardrobe was fixed to the wall, but the screws did not penetrate into the blockwork of the building. Although the care home was aware of the resident’s obsession, managers failed to ensure the wardrobe was securely attached to the wall to prevent it from falling.
Safety Failings Led to Resident’s Suffocation
- Background: The owner of a West Yorkshire care home, New Century Care Ltd, was fined £183,000 for safety failings at its Huddersfield facility, which led to a 93-year-old resident suffocating between her mattress and incorrectly fitted bed safety rails.
- What Went Wrong: The company had failed to train staff at the Huddersfield facility to fit bed safety rails. Staff was also not trained to carry out regular ‘in-use’ checks to ensure bed rails remained properly adjusted. Providing this simple training could have saved the resident’s life.
Faulty Window Restrictor Causes Patient Death
- Background: The owner of a care home, Barchester Healthcare Homes Limited, was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £22,961 after a 74-year-old patient with dementia fell from a window with a faulty restrictor and died.
- What Went Wrong: Window restrictors are meant to prevent vulnerable patients, such as people suffering from dementia, from opening and falling through windows. The window from which the resident fell had a faulty restrictor which allowed him to open the window and subsequently fall from it. Staff at the Essex care home had not been properly trained in carrying out adequate window safety checks, and management had not instituted a window management safety system.
Care Home Operator Fined for Endangering Residents
- Background: A care home operator, MSN Care PLC, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £880 in costs for safety failings that exposed residents to scalding water and unsafe lifting equipment at its east London facility.
- What Went Wrong: Inspectors found that legally required thermostatic mixing valves were not fitted to limit shower and bath water temperatures, and the only thermostat available to check water temperatures was broken. In one bathroom, the water registered at almost 58 degrees Celsius. Additionally, half of the 14 slings used at the home were not formally inspected during the six months prior to the incident, and one which had been previously deemed unsafe was still in use.
Care Home Fined for Toilet Cleaner Death
- Background: A Sheffield care home operator, Palms Row Healthcare, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £14,472 in costs for neglecting to properly manage the use of cleaning fluids which led to an 80-year-old resident’s death.
- What Went Wrong: The resident, who was frail, blind and suffering from dementia, had inadvertently drank toilet cleaner which was left unattended in his room for several hours by the staff. The HSE prosecuted the care home operator for its inadequate system of controlling dangerous chemicals, its inability to prevent access to areas of risk and for lacking procedures to account for cleaning products.
Lack of Manual Handling Training Causes Resident’s Death
- Background: A South Lanarkshire care home provider was fined £57,000 for failing to adequately train employees at its Uddingston facility, which led to the death of an 88-year-old resident.
- What Went Wrong: A new employee at the care home had neither been trained nor adequately supervised in moving and handling the resident, who required two employees for assistance when washing, dressing and undressing. The new employee, working alone, was helping the resident transfer from her shower chair to her bed when the resident slipped and broke her neck. Although a risk assessment had determined the resident required the assistance of two people, the resident’s information was not updated and the new employee was unaware of the requirement.