Care home company fined after pensioner dies
BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd has been fined £150,000 following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a pensioner died at a nursing home in Birmingham.
Seventy-four-year-old Brigid O’Callaghan, known as Vera, died after being strangled by a lap belt when she was left strapped in a wheelchair overnight.
Birmingham Crown Court heard today that staff at the company’s Amberley Court Nursing Home, on Edgbaston Road, Edgbaston, did not properly check on Mrs O’Callaghan on the night in question in a wheelchair in her room rather than helping her to bed.
She was discovered dead the next morning by a member of staff having slipped from the seat of the wheelchair to the floor, with the lap belt strap around her neck.
An HSE investigation into safety standards at the home following Mrs O’Callaghan’s death found more than 15 failings in her treatment.
The court heard that the home had failed to carry out a proper risk assessment and care plan for Mrs O’Callaghan’s stay, did not communicate her needs to staff, failed to ensure she could call for help and did not monitor whether night time checks were carried out.
HSE inspectors also identified more than ten further potential hazards that put residents at risk, ranging from a cluttered corridor to dirty conditions.
These included the absence of window restraints; excessive water temperature in two bathrooms; failure to secure a laundry room; tripping hazards and charging a battery in a corridor; storing lifting slings over a handrail; inappropriate treatment of waste items and laundry; dirty conditions of a shower and toilet; inappropriate storage of items in bathrooms; failure to secure a housekeeping room; a cluttered corridor; insufficient resources for an adequate maintenance programme; insufficient monitoring of the management of the home and lack of staff training.
BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd, of Bridge House, Outwood Lane, Horsforth, Leeds, pleaded guilty to two breaches of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The first charge focused on the issues most closely connected to Mrs O’Callaghan’s death and the second on the potential hazards for the other residents. The company was fined £150,000 in total and ordered to pay £150,000 in costs.
An HSE Inspector said:
“Mrs O’Callaghan’s death was a preventable tragedy caused by a shocking case of mismanagement. The managers of this, and indeed all care homes, have a duty of care for their residents. At the very least they should be making sure that residents are comfortable and safe at night, not left in a wheelchair.
“There were some awful conditions for the elderly residents to live in and hazards that could easily have caused them serious injury.
“The home’s managers were not given appropriate monitoring or supervision and as a result the staff were not being properly trained or monitored.
“Working in a care home is a specialised job and it’s vital that all employees have the correct training in place, which in this instance, they did not.”