Radio Sandwell Local News

Care home fined after woman froze to death

2013-11-08 23:19:40

Hilda Fairweather
The court heard care home staff failed to check on
Hilda Fairweather throughout the night

A West Midlands care home has been fined £133,000 after mistakes led to a 91-year-old woman with dementia freezing to death in its grounds.

Hilda Fairweather, from Kidderminster, died from hypothermia after walking out of the Abele View care home in Iverley, near Stourbridge, in January 2009.

The home admitted failing to ensure the health and safety of its residents and not making a proper risk assessment.

It was also ordered to pay £122,412 in costs at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.

The court heard the home had two staff looking after 29 residents on the night Mrs Fairweather walked out through an unsecured fire door.

Although the fire door was found ajar the court was told a head count, which would have taken seven minutes, was not carried out and no-one checked on her during the night.

Mrs Fairweather was last seen by staff at 19:30 GMT on 29 January 2009 and was found dead in the grounds at 07:45 the next day.

'Sloppy procedures'

Bernard Thorogood, prosecuting on behalf of South Staffordshire District Council, said: "In the intervening time she should have been put to bed, and she should have been checked for other purposes through the night."

He said records, which should have shown that regular checks on residents were carried out, were missing.

Abele View also admitted having inadequate staffing levels and putting residents at risk by poor supervision and management.

Abele House Care Home
Abele House was given 28 days to pay the fine by
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court

Ronald Walker, representing the care home, said that since Mrs Fairweather's death it had altered its procedures, alarmed external doors, erected new fencing, and upgraded external lighting.

He said an ex-Care Quality Commission inspector now conducted unannounced visits on behalf of the firm's parent group.

"This dreadful accident was undoubtedly caused by sloppy procedures, but it wasn't a case of deliberate risk-taking," he said.

Passing sentence, Judge Fletcher said: "It's clear that this was not just a failure of the staff present on the night.

"The defendant company fell very short of the applicable standard of care in terms of safety procedures."

Mrs Fairweather's son, Roger, 65, from Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, said they were "satisfied with the outcome."

He said: "My mother died in future I would like to see these sorts of cases progressing at a much quicker pace so those responsible understand the full ramifications of their actions.

"I hope in some way that this case will help to prevent what happened to my mother happening to anyone else."


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