HSE fines care home operator following resident death

We have recently reported on a number of “want of care” cases in which the Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’) prosecuted health providers for incidents arising out of neglect for the health and safety of their patients. This trend is perpetuated following the death of a resident with clinical dementia in a Hertfordshire care home.

Borehamwood-based Life Style Care PLC was fined a total of £85,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Their patient, Mrs Claire Hughes, 64, suffered from dementia. For certain reasons, the wardrobe in her room was locked to prevent her from gaining access. On the morning of her death, she had attempted to open the wardrobe which proceeded to fall on her, suffocating her.

Following investigation, the HSE concluded that the care home failed, firstly, to adequately secure the wardrobe to the wall and, secondly, to provide the maintenance manager with necessary information, instruction or training so that the wardrobe would be properly secured at all times.

Commenting on this incident, HSE Inspector Sandra Dias said: “Mrs Hughes’ death was a wholly preventable tragedy caused by unacceptable management failings on the part of Life Style Care PLC. They put her at unnecessary risk…Working in a care home is a specialised job, which involves dealing with vulnerable people. Care homes must ensure that they have the correct training in place for all their employees, and that they work to adequately assess and eliminate all significant risks.”

This case follows on an increasing tendency for the HSE to prosecute health providers, under existing health and safety legislation, for “want of care” of their patients.

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