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October 23, 2014

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Care home sentenced after resident’s tragic death

The owners of Thameside Residential Care Home in West Molesey have been fined after an elderly resident tragically died following a food related incident at the home in 2011.

Anchor Trust was fined £130,000 and awarded costs to the Council of £60,000 at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, 1 October 2014, after pleading guilty on three counts for health and safety failings.

Guildford Crown Court were told that Mrs Beryl Newton, an 81 year old resident of Thameside Residential Care Home, was at risk of choking and required a soft, moist diet and to be supervised whilst eating. However, their systems failed to protect her from being left alone by a carer for a short period of time with a plate of food.

In handing down the sentence, His Honour Judge Lucas said: “In the present case, there were systemic failures at Thameside. Those systemic failures were of long duration and posed a significant risk of harm to the residents – here I include both Mrs Newton and other residents. If those at the top of the corporation were unaware of the systemic failures at Thameside, then, as I have said, they should have made it their business to be aware of those failures.”

In the defence’s Basis of Plea document submitted to the court, Anchor Trust acknowledged that they were negligent and fell short of the standards expected from an operator of a residential care home and that the systems in place were not sufficient to protect an elderly and vulnerable resident from choking. Anchor Trust also accepted that it would have been reasonably practicable to devise a better system to deliver food to those on a soft diet. The controls that Anchor introduced following the incident, should have been in place prior to the incident.

In the document, Anchor also acknowledged that they failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of its residents. With regard to the guilty plea relating to count 3, Anchor accepted that the carer in question should not have been appointed or retained as Mrs Beryl Newton’s keyworker given her inability or unwillingness to participate in essential record keeping. The appointment of the carer was not in accordance with Anchor’s own policies.

Portfolio Holder for Environment at Elmbridge Borough Council, Councillor Glenn Dearlove, said it was extremely regrettable that these systems were only reviewed and amended by Anchor Trust following the tragic death of Mrs Beryl Newton.

“It is essential that all operators who have responsibility for vulnerable persons, be they young or old, ensure that staff who are entrusted to care for the vulnerable receive adequate training, and in addition they check the employee’s competency and understanding of the training they have received. The hope is that this incident is never repeated and that no family will have to suffer the pain that the Newton family have endured.”

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