More than one master


The recent prosecution of a care home company for Health & Safety offences is a timely reminder that the activities of providers are regulated by more than one statutory body.

Whilst the profile of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has never been higher, the conviction of New Century Care Limited of Sidcup, Kent for a breach of Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 illustrates the way in which the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) also play a role in the running of care homes.

The case concerned the tragic death of an elderly service user at a home run by the company in Huddersfield.

The lady in question had been assisted to her bed in the evening by two care workers. A check had been made on her welfare just before midnight. Her care plan required a further check 2 hours later. When the care assistants entered her room to undertake this check she could not be immediately seen in her bed. She had become trapped in a gap created between the mattress and the safety rail and had died as a consequence.

An investigation undertaken by the HSE unearthed the fact that staff had not been trained to carry out regular "in-use" checks to make sure bedrails remained properly adjusted. Nor were risk assessments for their safe use undertaken.

The company pleaded guilty to the charge under the 1974 Act and were fined 160,000 together with 18,000 Prosecution costs.

The HSE Inspector involved in the incident commented that "this was a terrible tragedy that could have been so easily avoided. Bed safety rails are used extensively in the Health and Social Care Sectorsthe risks of their use are well documented, actively published and widely recognised in the Health Care Industry". She went on to add that "if anything positive is to come out of this very sad incident, it is that other employers take note and be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take action against those who fall so far below the required standards".

This clearly illustrates the obligation on operators, not only to comply with Essential Standards as laid down by the CQC but also Health & Safety Legislation.

For more information, please contact Mark Quigley, Head of Regulatory.

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