A healthcare firm and its owner have been fined £335,000 for safety failings after an elderly resident died following injuries she suffered from a fall.
The 100 year-old resident fell whilst being moved by carers at a former Bedfordshire care home in August 2010.
Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which established that the woman’s death could have been prevented had staff been properly trained in handling and moving residents, the owners of the nursing home and its director were sentenced.
Luton Crown Court heard that the resident fell to the floor as she was being moved with the aid of a hoist by two carers between her bed and a chair.
Tragically, she suffered multiple fractures to her skull, hip and knee from the fall and died the following day in hospital as a result of her injuries.
The HSE investigation revealed that both of the resident’s two carers had been employed for less than a year at the time of the accident and neither had received any training on handling the sling they were using to move her.
The sling was found to be difficult to fit correctly and had not been recommended by Central Bedfordshire Council as being suitable for the resident’s medical needs. It was also revealed that on the day of the accident, the resident had not been properly secured within the sling and it was when she moved that she fell out and struck the floor.
Amongst a number of failings, the court heard there was a history of safety breaches at the home in question and between October and December 2010, the HSE had served five Improvement Notices regarding faults in resident handling, risk assessment and a lack of competent health and safety advice.
The investigation also uncovered a similar previous incident that had gone unreported involving another resident in 2009, who had suffered a broken leg after falling whilst being moved between her wheelchair and a chair.
Furthermore, it transpired that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had visited the home on numerous occasions and given it a ‘poor’ or ‘adequate’ rating. After concerns raised by the CQC following a further inspection, the home was subsequently closed down in July 2013.
The evidence from this investigation clearly shows that the neglect of residents and management failings contributed to this woman’s death. If the necessary steps had been taken in response to repeated poor ratings and Improvement Notices regarding staff training particularly involving the moving and handling of elderly residents, this tragic accident could have been prevented.
Working with vulnerable people requires considerable training. Nursing home staff have a duty of care towards their residents and when that duty is neglected vulnerable people can be placed at unacceptable risk of injury or worse.
There are nearly half a million residents living in nursing homes in the UK today and sadly there are times when the care such patients receive falls woefully short of what is right and deserved. As such, the CQC needs to do more to respect and uphold their rights and protect them from the risk of abuse and neglect.
Stephen Jones is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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