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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Care home fined £1.5m

Care home fined £1.5m after dementia sufferer died falling downstairs

A care home has been fined £1.5 million after admitting a serious health and safety breach following the death of a dementia sufferer. George Chicken, 76, died after he fell down an unlit staircase at Rose Court Lodge Care Home in Sutton Road, Mansfield. Afterwards, his devastated family said they would like to see the re-evaluation of all care homes who advertise themselves as delivering dementia care.

Owner of the home, Embrace All Ltd, formerly European Care (GB), was given the hefty fine on Thursday afternoon - and ordered to pay costs of £200,000. The company, represented by barrister John Cooper QC, had pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of non-employees.

Home manager Amanda Dean, 50, of Devonshire Street, Ambergate, Belper, admitted failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others. She was given nine months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

Nottingham Crown Court had heard the home was responsible for the care of Mr Chicken, who was found at the bottom of the concrete staircase and taken to hospital where he passed away 48 hours later. Judge Stuart Rafferty QC said, as he sentenced Dean: "She couldn't keep a daily eye on residents as she should have, or ensure her staff were doing so either." The allegations were brought against Dean and the managing company after Mr Chicken fell down the stairway at the other side of a fire door at the home on November 4, 2012. The judge stressed that he was not sentencing them for the death of Mr Chicken or the fact of his death, but "rather the circumstances that gave rise to the possibility for that event".

Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood QC opened the case to a jury last month. The jury was discharged after the defendants decided to plead guilty after legal discussions. The court had been told how Mr Chicken got out of bed, walked alone along two long corridors, before going through a fire exit door, setting off an alarm, and stepping off into the darkness. Had Mr Chicken, who was not wearing his glasses, reached out for a handrail he would not have found one to the concrete stairs, the court heard. Staff heard the alarm call to the fire door and went to investigate.

Mr Thorogood, representing Mansfield District Council, had said: "They couldn't see anything it was so dark. It was bereft of any light. They could hear groaning. The prosecutor had also highlighted it was obviously unsafe to have a set of concrete stairs accessible to residents, which was not locked off - "just push the bar and through they go". "Especially a stairwell with no handrail," he said. "It was not and had not been, for sometime, illuminated. If it was illuminated, with two handrails and soft carpeting, you may think the risks of somebody tumbling down were obvious, in fact. Other staircases were in a less stark condition but still they represented, from that first floor, real risks." After the incident, the home made improvements, including daily documented checks of stairway lighting, extra members of staff put in corridors, keypad controls fitted at fire doors, and reviewable procedures by the company to check it all worked together and all linked up.

Dean had a certificate in health and safety and was trained additionally by the multi-million pound company in relation to dementia and care planning, the court heard. Paul Wakerley, for Dean, said on her behalf she had spent her life putting the needs of others before her own and had an "unblemished record". He described the mother-of-six, a trained nurse who rose to the position of operations manager in 2005, as being "truly sorry". After the hearing, a statement from the family read: "For our family, nothing will make us feel we've had justice. We still have to live every day with the pain of his horrific death. We express our gratitude to Mansfield District Council and their legal team. Without them, this case would not have seen the inside of a courtroom or brought to the attention of the public. We would like to see the reevaluation of all care homes who advertise themselves as delivering dementia care. They need to meet the criteria of not only having the understanding of the complexities of dementia but their health and safety measures re-assessed to ensure the safeguarding of their vulnerable residents. If my dad's death proves anything, they can no longer assume that accidents such as his may never happen. In my opinion all scenarios, no matter how small the risk, should be addressed and dealt with immediately. A death should not be the reason to rectify a problem."
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