St Austell Comhome care home resident scalded in bath

A care home owner and a care agency have admitted health and safety breaches after a disabled resident was severely scalded in a bath.

Paul Cundy, 64, who has physical and learning disabilities, suffered second degree burns at the home in St Austell, Cornwall, in December 2008.

A temperature regulator was disconnected six years earlier, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

Comhome Limited and Solor Care Group will be sentenced at a later date.

The court was told Mr Cundy - who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning disabilities - was hospitalised for four weeks.

'Unsatisfactory' elbow testing

Because of his disabilities, when he was lowered into the bath in a hoist, Mr Cundy was unable to tell care staff the water was too hot.

When he recoiled, a care worker thought he was having a seizure and lifted him out.

Another member of staff checked the water temperature by hand, added some cold water, and Mr Cundy was lowered back into the bath.

It was only after he reacted again by "thrashing" that he was lifted out and staff noticed his skin was severely scalded and was hanging off his feet, buttocks and elbow, the court heard.

The HSE investigation found the fitted thermostatic mixing valve (TMV), which would have regulated the water temperature to below the national guideline recommendation of 44C (111F), had been disconnected in 2002.

The court was told four internal maintenance reports showed the TMV was not working and identified it as "high risk" because water from the tap was just under 60C (140F).

'Appalling' incident

The investigation also revealed that, with no thermometer or formal control system for checking water temperature in the bathroom, staff had to use "unsatisfactory" measures, such as testing with a hand or elbow.

Comhome Limited, of Edward Street, Truro, pleaded guilty to a breach of section three of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

A spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment before sentencing.

Solor Care, of Circus Mews, Bath - formerly known as Robinia Care - which pleaded guilty to the same charge, was unavailable for comment.

HSE inspector Jo Fitzgerald said it was an "appalling" incident that "could and should have been avoided".

"It resulted in agonising pain for Mr Cundy - a vulnerable member of our society who was deserving of the very highest standards of care a protection."

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