Wardrobe death case: Care home must pay £150,000

Thomasina Bennett
Image caption Thomasina Bennett had Alzheimer's disease and was temporarily staying at Milford House Care Home in 2012 while her two daughters went on holiday

The owner of a care home where an 80-year-old woman was found dead under a fallen wardrobe has been ordered to pay £150,000 after being prosecuted.

Thomasina Bennett was temporarily staying at Milford House in Derbyshire while her daughters went on holiday.

The wardrobe had not been fastened to the wall, but the home was cleared of a safety charge relating to this.

Gerald Hudson, trading as Milford House, was instead convicted of a charge relating to monitor alarms.

Image caption Thomasina Bennett was normally cared for by her younger daughter Elizabeth Allsopp (right), who had gone on holiday with her sister Margaret Calladine (left)

The personal activity monitor alarms (PAMs) were supposed to alert staff if residents got up in the night - but Mrs Bennett's alarm did not go off.

'We knew she would fall'

Margaret Calladine, Mrs Bennett's elder daughter, said they chose the home because it used these monitors.

"When we were talking to the manageress of the home we told her about my mum's problems and she assured us that my mum would be monitored at night if she got out of bed," Mrs Calladine said.

"That was the main reason that we chose that home to put her in because to us that was vital, because we knew that she would get out of bed because she did at home, and she would fall and she can't get herself back up."

What went wrong

  • The court heard how Mrs Bennett, who had Alzheimer's, fell over 16 times at the care home in the two weeks leading up to her death in April 2012.
  • It is thought Mrs Bennett might have grabbed the wardrobe as she fell, or pulled it on to herself as she tried to get up.
  • Staff checked residents every two hours, but Mrs Calladine said this was not enough care for her mother. "It's OK saying they have two-hourly checks but if my mum had fallen 10 minutes after that, she was 80, she would have been lying on the floor for nearly two hours," she said. "Nobody wants an old person of that age, or anyone of any age, to be lying on the floor unaided."
  • Judge Jonathan Bennett said the personal activity monitor alarms (PAMs) - which were supposed to alert staff if residents got up in the night - were not fit for purpose, and staff had known about problems with them for a long time.
  • The PAMs were unreliable, the receiver block could only take one call at a time and there was no training for staff or system for maintenance, the judge said. The court heard that one care assistant was unhappy with the PAMs, and had brought Mrs Bennett downstairs to sit in a chair the night before her fall, thinking it would be safer.
  • Amber Valley Borough Council, which prosecuted the care home owner, said no cause of death has yet been confirmed, and this will be part of an inquest.
Image caption Gerald Hudson was cleared of one charge and convicted of another

Hudson, 72, from Ambergate, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £90,000 costs at Derby Crown Court.

He was cleared of failing to make a sufficient assessment of the risks of using free-standing furniture, which would have been a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

However, he was found guilty of a breaching the act by failing to suitably assess the risks of using the PAMs, failing to ensure they were suitable for use, and failing to ensure employees were adequately trained to use them.

In a statement, Milford House Partnership said the PAMs were "bought in good faith from a specialist company who had provided them to other healthcare organisations including the NHS".

"Our staff were left absolutely devastated by the death of Thomasina Bennett," it said.

"We truly believed that by adding in extra safety measures that went above and beyond the industry standards, that we were extending our duty of care to our residents."

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