Care home group fined for corporate manslaughter

The news that a care home group (Aster Healthcare Ltd) has been convicted of corporate manslaughter and fined £1.04million will serve as a salutary reminder to care home providers of the importance of maintaining compliance with Health and Safety Regulations.

While prosecutions for corporate manslaughter are rare this latest prosecution demonstrates the need to ensure that a health and safety focussed culture is embedded in care homes from those caring for residents to the senior management team.

The case concerned the death of a 93-year-old dementia resident who suffered burns to her legs and feet whilst being bathed. The care home group admitted that it was in gross breach of its duty to Francis Norris and that she died as a result.

According to Aster’s statement, the evidence showed that the company:

  • "Did not undertake all of the remedial work required in two risk assessments it commissioned in February and June 2013 in response to enforcement action taken against it;
  • Where some remedial work was undertaken, it was done so in an inadequate manner;
  • The decision to install thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) to regulate the supply of hot water emitted by baths and showers was not applied consistently, they were not serviced or maintained, no policy was in place and staff were not trained in respect of TMVs;
  • Did not follow the readily available guidance in respect of managing the risks from hot water;
  • Did not ensure that proper systems were maintained in respect of bathing residents, there was no bathing policy, inadequate record keeping, inadequate staff training and no risk assessment; and
  • On a number of occasions false information was provided in respect of the hot water system."

It is of note, that Aster was further ordered to publicise this conviction in the Health Service Journal [£] publication.

Commenting on the prosecution, specialist prosecutor Eran Cutliffe, of the Crown Prosecution Service said:

“The prosecution was able to present a compelling case having identified systemic failings on the part of the senior management of Aster Health Care Ltd in relation to their approach to health and safety and staff training.”

“The company chose to ignore repeated problems and warnings with their hot water system with the consequence being that Mrs Norris suffered extensive burns whilst being bathed.”

Do get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the issues raised here – we have an expert and friendly team of regulatory health and care lawyers that can support you with a police investigation, Health & Safety Executive and the Care Quality Commission.

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