Residential care home fined after resident choked to death

A care home based in Fleet, Hampshire has been fined after an elderly resident who had difficulties swallowing choked to death on food which had not been cut up.

Winchester Crown Court heard how Mrs Margaret Humphreys’ family had arranged for her to stay at Marlborough House for respite care. They had left clear instructions with the home verbally and in the form of a laminated card which clearly explained how her food needed to be cut into small pieces to avoid the risk of choking.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 16 August 2014, found that Mrs Humphreys had been served uncut meatballs. The home failed to carry out a proper pre-admission assessment of Mrs Humphreys, which would have identified the risk of choking on uncut food.

Craysell Limited, of Hoppingwood Farm, Robin Hood Way, London, pleaded guilty to failing to discharge the duty imposed upon them by Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £19,631.

HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said after the hearing: “This was a completely avoidable tragedy. The home was informed in the clearest terms that if Mrs Humphreys was presented with food that was uncut, she would choke, this crucial information was ignored.

“Had Marlborough House properly assessed Mrs Humphreys, the risk of her choking would have been identified and measures put in place to control this risk.

“This case sends out a clear message to the care home sector,  illustrating the importance of listening to residents’ family’s instructions and to also properly assess and provide the same standard of care to respite residents as they would to permanent residents. This tragic case must act as a reminder of the importance of properly assessing new residents and that vital information must be properly communicated to care staff.”