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Care home's safety failures led to elderly woman's death

The owners of a West Yorkshire care home have been told to pay £183,000 in fines and costs after a frail 93 year-old widow died because established safety measures were neglected.

Mrs Elsie Beals asphyxiated after becoming trapped in the gap between her mattress and incorrectly-fitted bed safety rails at Aden Court Care Home in Huddersfield on 24 April 2010.

New Century Care Ltd. of Sidcup, Kent, a private company with around 27 UK care homes,was prosecuted for a serious safety breach by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it investigated the incident.

On 10 September, Leeds Crown Court was told that the company, which has some 1,700 employees, had failed to train staff at Aden Court to fit bed safety rails.

HSE found also that staff were not trained to carry out regular 'in-use' checks to make sure bed rails remained properly adjusted, or to carry out risk assessments for their use.

The court heard that Mrs Beals, formerly of Lepton, Huddersfield, who had been resident at Aden Court for two years, had been helped to bed the previous evening by two care assistants. She had been checked just before midnight and was due another care check two hours later.

When the care assistants entered the room in the early hours of 24 April, Mrs Beals could not immediately be seen in bed. As they went to the side near the window they saw she had become trapped in the gap created between the mattress and the safety rail. It was obvious to staff that she was dead.

New Century Care Ltd. of River House, Maidstone Road, Sidcup, Kent, was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £18,000 in costs for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The firm had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.


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