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October 6, 2016

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Care home fined £1.5 million after resident’s death

A care home, which pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches after a resident died in a fall, has been fined £1.5 million.

George Chicken, 76, who had severe dementia wandered through a first floor fire escape door at Rose Court Lodge in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and fell from the fire escape staircase.

Mr Chicken fell down the concrete stairs and fractured his skull, suffering a bleed on the brain. He was taken to King’s Mill Hospital, but died 48 hours later.

Embrace All Ltd, formally European Care (GB), which ran the care home, had pleaded guilty in July to failing to ensure residents were not exposed to risks of health and safety, while manager Amanda Dean of Derbyshire pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of persons affected by her work.

Nottingham Crown Court heard how Mr Chicken, who had undergone hip and knee replacements, was often confused, anxious and unsteady, and was known to wander around the home and had previously pushed open fire exit doors to get out.

The case was initially put before a jury last month, but the jury was discharged after the defendants changed their pleas to guilty following legal discussions.

Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood QC, representing Mansfield District Council said that had Mr Chicken, who was not wearing his glasses, reached out for a handrail he would not have found one to the concrete stairs.

He told the court that staff heard the alarm call to the fire escape and went to investigate.

“They couldn’t see anything, it was so dark… They could hear groaning,” said Mr Thorogood.

After Mr Chicken’s fall in November 2012, the home made improvements, including daily documented checks of stairway lighting, extra members of staff in corridors, keypad controls fitted at fire doors, and reviewable procedures by the company to check it all worked together and all linked up.

Amanda Dean had a certificate in health and safety and was additionally trained in relation to dementia and care planning, the court heard.

Paul Wakerley, acting on behalf of Ms Dean, said she had spent her life putting the needs of others before her own and had an “unblemished record” and described her as being “truly sorry”.

Ms Dean was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years, and ordered to pay csots of £20,000.

Embrace All Ltd, formally European Care (GB), was fined £1.5 million and ordered to pay costs of £200,000.

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 re-evaluation 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.”

Patricia Lee, Chief Executive of Embrace, said: “I want to apologise wholeheartedly to Mr Chicken’s family, on behalf of all at Embrace, for the health and safety failings that contributed to this tragic accident.

“We have worked exceptionally hard to do all we can to address the issues raised in this case, and have implemented a comprehensive risk assessment programme throughout the organisation. The judge acknowledged that Embrace is a company of good character and he also noted that lessons have been learnt since the tragic events of 2012. Four years on we continue to build upon on the progress made.

“Our number one priority is always the health, safety and wellbeing of the residents we support. Everything we do is based on providing residents with the highest quality of care and the most fulfilled lives possible.”

Mansfield District Council’s Chief Executive Bev Smith said: “The council brought the case because the company’s failings and Ms Dean’s poor management had exposed vulnerable residents at the home to very poor standards of care and serious risks to their safety.

“It is imperative that we stand up for the most vulnerable in our community and ensure that the best quality of care is provided at crucial times in their lives. We will not tolerate any care that falls below an acceptable standard or puts our residents at risk.”

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