An Essex care home owner has been fined £120,000 at Southend Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday, 1 February) following an incident in which a 75-year-old woman was injured leaving her with a life changing condition.
Rushcliffe Care Limited, which ran Partridge Care Centre in Harlow, was fined and ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge, plus £17,826.37 costs, after admitting it failed to provide safe care and treatment to one of its residents in a prosecution brought by the Care Quality Commission.
The prosecution was brought against the company after the woman was injured as a result of being trapped in a commode shower chair at the Partridge Road home. She sustained a significant injury, which required surgery and left her with a stoma and colostomy bag.
James Lester, prosecuting, told the court: “Rushcliffe Care failed to take all reasonable steps and exercise all due diligence to ensure safe care and treatment was provided and that as a result a person using the service suffered serious avoidable harm.”
The court heard that on the morning of 7 June 2015 the resident was showering with support from one of the home’s carers and a shower commode chair. The chair did not have a safety belt or foot plates and a carer noticed the lady’s leg was sliding between a gap in the seat.
Her carer called for help, but the woman slipped further, causing the chair seat to come out of its position and for her to fall further into the gap. Other members of care staff tried to help and lift her, but the chair’s seat fell away and she became caught on a metal bar on the equipment.
Mr Lester told the court that the woman suffered an irreversible injury and was taken to hospital where she underwent surgery.
Following the incident CQC carried out an inspection and launched an investigation into what had happened at Partridge Care Centre.
The court heard that in the months before the incident the resident’s sitting balance had deteriorated, leaving her at significant risk of leaning forward or slipping while showering. The provider knew this, a carer had reported her concerns about the lady showering to home managers, but nothing had been done to provide proper support.
"The risk assessments in this resident’s care planning documentation were insufficient or inadequate to support her showering. In particular they made no sufficiently clear or specific assessment either of the risks presented to her during showering, to the deterioration in her sitting balance in the months prior to the incident, or the risk from the use of the shower commode equipment used to support showering her," Mr Lester said.
Before June 2015 the provider had no policy or suitable guidance for using commode shower chairs safely and staff who showered the resident did not have adequate instruction on how to keep her safe. The home had failed to promptly refer her for specialist assessment, despite the deterioration in her posture and risks identified by staff while showering, and the equipment used to support her was unsafe as it was the wrong size and provided insufficient posture support.
Jemima Burnage, Head of Adult Social Care Inspection for CQC in the Central region, said: “While we welcome that the provider accepted full responsibility for what happened in this case, we would always rather not have to take action because vulnerable people have been failed by those providing their care.
"We appreciate how distressing this has been for this lady and the lasting impact this has had on her and hope this case prompts other care home operators to review the care they provide and better ensure people’s safety.
"It was the serious failure of the home to protect people from avoidable harm that led to CQC’s prosecution of the provider. In its role as provider Rushcliffe Care Limited had a specific legal duty to ensure care and treatment was provided in a safe way. We found they had failed to do this by not ensuring risks had been fully assessed and measures were in place to prevent harm to this lady.
"Where we find any care provider has put people in its care at serious risk of harm, we will consider holding them to account by using our powers to prosecute."
Following the incident Rushcliffe Care Limited suspended use of the type of shower commode chair used by the resident at Partridge Care Centre.
Since the incident the home has transferred ownership from Rushcliffe Care Limited to a new provider, Abbotts Care Centre Limited. It has also been renamed as Abbotts Care Centre. The prosecution is not related to the current provider or the home under its current ownership or new name.
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