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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Care home owner fined for putting residents at risk at Dagenham home

Written by The Editorial Team

A national care home operator has been fined for safety failings at an east London care home.

Middlesex-based MNS Care PLC was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for exposing residents to a risk of being scalded, and for using potentially unsafe lifting equipment at Hanbury Court Care Home in Dagenham.

It follows an inspection on 14 March this year to check standards after similar failings were identified at another of the company’s homes in Suffolk.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday (27 November) that at Hanbury Court inspectors found that thermostatic mixing valves had not been fitted in to limit shower and bath water temperatures to between 41°C and 44°C – as the law requires.

Furthermore, the only thermometer available for care staff to check water temperatures was broken

In one bathroom the bath water was registered to be dangerously high at almost 58°C, which prompted HSE to immediately serve a Prohibition Notice putting it out of use until it was made safe.

Serious concerns were also identified with lifting slings, which should also be routinely checked and monitored.

More than half of the 14 slings used at the home had not been formally inspected in the past six months, and one of those that had been previously inspected and condemned as unsafe was still in use.

A further three slings were in such poor condition they were immediately removed, and they too were later condemned by an expert.

HSE found that staff had not been trained to carry out routine pre-use checks on the slings to identify potential faults and damage.

The court was told that although there were no incidents at the home relating to any of the failings identified, there was a real concern that someone could have been seriously injured unless urgent improvements were made.

MNS Care PLC, of Wolseley Road, Wealdstone, Harrow, Middlesex, was fined a total of £30,000 and ordered to pay £880 in costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Lifting Operation and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.  After the hearing HSE inspector Vicky Fletcher said:

“Fortunately in this case no one was injured as a result of MNS Care’s failure to take adequate safety precautions, but all too often these types of failures have tragic consequences.

“The risk of scalding to people who are so vulnerable that they cannot prevent harm to themselves is a well-known danger in the health and social care industry, and the consequences of scalding can, in addition to causing excruciating pain, be fatal.

“Care Homes are required by law to fit thermostatic mixing valves to baths and showers to limit hot water temperature, and staff should always check the water temperatures with a bath thermometer.

“The risk of a person falling whilst they are being hoisted can also have serious and sometimes fatal consequences. It is imperative that care home providers have robust systems in place to ensure their slings are safe to use.   “To be robust a system must include a thorough examination of each sling every six months by a competent person, periodic checks between these intervals, and a pre-use check carried out by staff who are trained to identify defects and know when to take a sling out of use.

“HSE has extensive, freely-available guidance on managing both of these risks and I urge all care home providers to check that they are complying with this guidance.”

Such guidance on health and safety in care homes can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/index.htm