Manager and owner fined for providing unsafe care

Suffolk care home owner and manager have been fined after admitting they failed to provide safe care and treatment.

Highcliffe House Limited, which runs Highcliffe House Nursing Home in Felixstowe, was fined £16,500, plus a £170 victim surcharge at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court and its manager, Alison Quilter-Cudworth, was fined £1,000, plus a £170 victim surcharge, in a prosecution brought by the Care Quality Commission.

The prosecution was brought against the company and Quilter-Cudworth following an investigation into the death of a resident, William George Willmott.

Mr Willmott was found dead outside the Cobbold Road home on 14 July 2016 after falling from his second floor bedroom window which, at the time, did not have window restrictors. A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Willmott had sustained significant injuries as a direct result of the fall.

The court was told that the home had undergone previous health and safety audits when the need for window restrictors in residents’ rooms was highlighted. In addition, a CQC inspection in May 2016 found a lack of support, care planning and risk assessments for service users in distress.

At the time of his death Mr Willmott was recognised by care staff to be suffering from severe anxiety and depression. He had been identified as at risk of ‘severe panic attack leading to disturbed behaviour’ and of falling.

CQC carried out an urgent, focused, inspection at Highcliffe Nursing Home as a result of Mr Willmott’s death. This found a lack of environmental risks assessments at the home and the window in Mr Willmott’s room opened up to 50 centimetres. As a result of the inspection, urgent conditions were imposed requiring the provider to fix windows and review all health and safety at the service. Admissions to the home were also restricted and the home was placed into special measures.

Jemima Burnage, head of Adult Social Care Inspection for CQC in the Central region, said: “While we welcome the fact that both the provider and manager accepted responsibility in this case, we would always rather not be in the position of having to take action because vulnerable people have been failed by those providing their care.

“We appreciate how distressing this has been for Mr Wilmott’s family and, like them, hope this case prompts other care home operators and managers to review their properties and systems to better ensure people’s safety. It is vital that people using care services are not left at risk of harm.”

Highcliffe House Nursing Home complied with the conditions CQC imposed after Mr Willmott’s death. The home is currently rated as Requires Improvement and is subject to ongoing monitoring.

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