HC-One has been ordered to pay almost £60,000 in fines and costs by Camberwell Magistrates’ Court after admitting failing to provide safe care and treatment.
District Judge Andrew Sweet issued a £45,000 fine and also ordered the payment of £14,570.58 prosecution after the Care Quality Commission brought the prosecution following an incident when a 72 year old woman was burned after sitting on a portable heater at Elmwood Nursing Home in Croydon.
The court was told that the nursing home had been experiencing difficulties with its heating system during January 2016. They placed some oil filled electric heaters in residents’ bedrooms and communal areas.
Late one night a member of staff found Mrs Polly Dunkley, who has vascular dementia, sitting on one of the portable heaters. As staff put her back to bed they noticed a burn to the back of her thigh.
Although they called the NHS 111 service, staff did not appreciate the severity of the burn or follow the appropriate wound management procedure. It was only the following morning, and after Mrs Dunkley had experienced a fall, that paramedics arranged for her to go to hospital.
She eventually spent 72 days in hospital, including 28 days in the specialist burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after receiving a skin graft to treat her burns.
Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of Adult Social Care, said: “This painful injury could have been avoided if HC-One had taken responsibility to protect the people in their care.
“The risk of older people sustaining serious burns from hot surfaces is something all care homes should be aware of but the provider failed to ensure that a suitable risk assessment was carried out for the use of the heater in Mrs Dunkley’s room – and as a result she was seriously burned.
“When serious incidents occur, we now have the powers to prosecute those who are responsible. If we find that a care provider has put people in its care at risk of harm, we will always consider using those powers to hold them to account in the courts.”
A spokesperson for HC-One said: “We are very sorry for the mistakes that led to a resident at our home sustaining an injury in March 2016, and we have apologised personally to the resident involved and her family.
“This accident was the result of the health and safety systems we have in place being incorrectly followed. In our own investigations, completed immediately after the original accident, we recognised and documented where things went wrong and have made sure we have learnt these lessons. We have now removed the type of heater involved from all of our homes, and the staff involved in this accident no longer work for our company. We are confident that this type of accident will never happen again in any of our homes.
“We are working closely with the CQC and the local authority to make sure the home continues to improve. The new team at the home is working together to deliver the kindest possible care, which is our absolute focus and priority at all times.”