September 7, 2017

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Care home gets £210k fine after resident death

A care home has been ordered to £210,000 in fines and costs following an incident in which a resident with Parkinson’s disease died after his pyjamas caught fire when smoking a cigarette unattended.

Guildford Crown Court heard that wheelchair-bound Gordon Boxall became engulfed in flames when a cigarette he was smoking ignited his pyjamas after he had been treated by paraffin-based creams for a skin condition.

The 66-year-old was airlifted to St George’s Hospital, Tooting, but died later that day from his injuries.

Anchor Trust, which runs the care home pleaded guilty to three breaches of fire safety regulations in a prosecution brought by Surrey County Council.

The court was told that Mr Boxall was left alone to smoke a cigarette outside the building even though it was known that he had a tendency to drop things because of his medical condition.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Moss said: “Better supervision should have been employed – but it wasn’t.”

Fire-proof apron

Anchor Trust had earlier pleaded guilty at Guildford Magistrates Court to failing to provide its staff at Barnfield with adequate safety training, failing to provide a suitable risk assessment, and failing to take sufficient protective measures regarding smoking.

The tragic events happened in 2015 at the home which houses 63 residents.

Ms Saba Naqshbandi, for the county council, said that Mr Boxall, who was a smoker, had been treated with paraffin-based creams for cracked and dry skin. She said he had been taken outside for a smoke when a member of staff saw that he was in distress.

Ms Naqshbandi said care home staff rushed to put out the flames but Mr Boxall had suffered 80% burns and his clothes had burned away.

She said the tragedy might have been prevented had Mr Boxall been supervised while smoking or worn a fire-proof “smoking apron.” The court was told that such aprons were now available to all residents and that there were now alternatives to paraffin-based creams.

Mark Watson, representing Anchor Trust, said his clients were profoundly sorry for what had happened.

Lessons learned

Mark Greaves, care director for Barnfield, said: “We are deeply sorry for the distress that this tragic accident has caused and we have passed on our condolences to Mr Boxall’s family. This incident happened more than two years ago and the home is now under a different management team.

“We have conducted our own full investigation and have worked with police and social services to ensure all possible lessons have been learned and acted on.”

Judge Moss imposed a fine of £45,000 for each of the three breaches plus £75,000 costs.

He said he was mitigating the penalties because of the Trust’s early guilty pleas and the prompt action it had taken to remedy faults.

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