Bupa Care Homes Fined £90,000 After Tragic Death

Bupa Care Homes Ltd has today been fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £19,247 costs in a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), following the death of 95-year-old woman, Mrs Charlotte Wood from Mottingham.

Mrs Wood became a resident at the Abbotsleigh Mews Residential and Nursing Home in Sidcup run by BUPA Care Homes Ltd in 2001. She was unable to walk or move independently. On 28 November 2003, Mrs Wood slipped from a Sarita hoist, which was being used to get her out of a bath, and fractured her shoulder. While waiting for surgery on her shoulder, Mrs Wood contracted pneumonia and subsequently died on 2 December 2003.

Following the hearing at Southwark Crown Court on 7 September 2006, HSE Inspector Hazel McCallum said,

“All too often we hear of cases where vulnerable, elderly people are not afforded the standard of care they deserve because the systems in place are not properly followed. The tragedy is that Mrs Wood’s death was entirely avoidable.”

The care assistant who was attending Mrs Wood had been employed by BUPA for about six weeks but had not received training and had not used this type of hoist before. Risk assessments and procedures for manual handling and safe bathing were not brought to the attention of care assistants and the supervision of staff carrying out lifting operations was inadequate.

Mrs Wood’s family say she had other minor falls from hoists while at Abbottsleigh Mews. Her son, Geoff Wood said,

“My Mother was a much loved and central part of our family and her loss was a great blow to us all. Although she was frail she was in good health and we had fully expected her to get a telegram from the Queen.”

BUPA were found guilty at the hearing at Southwark Crown Court of an offence as provided by Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The HSE was awarded full costs of £19,247. Following the incident the manager of the care home resigned from her job, the carer was dismissed by BUPA and another was disciplined.

BUPA Care Homes Ltd pleaded guilty in November 2004 to two other charges under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. In this case a 90-year-old woman died after a brain haemorrhage resulting from a fall from a sling when she was being hoisted out of a bath. BUPA was fined £2,500 and the HSE awarded full costs.