In August 2012, a pensioner, aged 88, who was living in a care home in Flintshire, died from burns when her care workers accidentally lowered the pensioner into a scalding-hot bath using a hoist. The care home was run by a private company. It transpired that the mixing valves for the hot water had not been maintained.
The pensioner, who had dementia, sustained 9% burns to her lower legs, upper body and left arm. The burns contributed to her death. The pensioner died even though she was treated in a specialist burns unit, as the burns triggered pneumonia and a blood clot.
Prosecution of the care home
The care home was prosecuted, with the case being heard in Flintshire Magistrates in September 2014. The Magistrates heard that the care home had no proper effective control over the temperature of the hot water. In addition, the Magistrates heard that there was no risk assessment in place and there had been little training for the care home staff.
During the trial the Court heard that tests on the water temperature after the incident indicated that the temperature of the water may have been around 50.7C. The maximum safe level for the temperature of hot water is around 44C.
The presiding Judge is reported to have said: “Either the care home did not care for the safety of its residents or it could not be bothered to bring the standards of the home to a minimum standard which would have prevented the potential risks.” The Judge went on to criticise the care home for not wanting to spend money to improve standards.
The Judge also said: ‘It is clear that this company was running an establishment without understanding their responsibilities.’
The Court fined the care home company £5,000 for breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. The care home company went into liquidation, which is likely to mean that the fine would not be collected.
The Court heard that even after the avoidable death of the pensioner the new risk assessments for the hot water in the care home were only rudimentary and not fit for purpose.
It also came to light that an inspection by the Care and Social Service Inspectorate for Wales raised concerns about the dignity and safety of the care home’s 26 residents. The inspection noted that there was poor staffing levels and training, cleanliness and security. The Inspectorate applied to court to apply for the home’s immediate closure.
Health and Safety Executive’s comments
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokesperson stated that the pensioner would have been saved had the care home followed the guidance on how to bathe vulnerable adults.
As solicitors specialising in personal injury claims against care homes we find this case to be particularly heinous one, given just how easy it would have been to have checked the water temperature. The Court made scathing comments about how the care home seemed to be more interested in making a profit than in looking after its residents. This, unfortunately, is becoming a common theme.
With our head office in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and with virtual offices in York, Manchester and London, we represent injured people throughout the country. If you have been injured in a care home, or if you are the relative of someone who has suffered injury in a care home, and you want a confidential, no-obligation consultation, please get in touch with one of our specialist solicitors today.