A social care charity will have to pay more than £200,000 after a vulnerable 62-year-old man died while staff were helping him to take a shower.
Kevin McNally, a resident of a nursing home in Birstall, West Yorkshire, run by the charity St Anne’s Community Services, fell from a shower chair and broke his neck in April 2015 because staff had not securely strapped him in, according to the regulator the Care Quality Commission.
McNally had Down’s syndrome, epilepsy, dementia and a severe learning disability and had lived in the nursing home since 2012.
The Leeds-based charity pleaded guilty at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court last week to an offence of failing to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm to a service user.
Derek Bray, chief executive of St Anne’s Community Services, said the charity fully accepted the outcome of the case and took its responsibilities while caring for vulnerable people "very seriously indeed".
Two staff had been helping McNally take a shower using a special chair that accidentally fell forwards while he was loosely strapped in. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead in hospital, the CQC told the court.
Just nine days before the incident, the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued safety alerts intended to raise awareness of the danger that people could sustain injuries because safety belts were not used or adjusted properly, according to the CQC.
But the charity failed to ensure staff were aware of the warning or that they understood how to fit the strap safely, the CQC said.
Debbie Westhead, deputy chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission, described the accident as "a tragedy that need not have happened".
She said: "This accident was entirely avoidable. The risk of people sustaining serious injuries because safety or posture belts are not used properly has been well known for some time. Yet St Anne’s Community Services failed in its duty to ensure that care and treatment was provided in a safe way, and as a result Kevin McNally died."
The charity was fined £190,000 and ordered to pay £16,000 towards the cost of the prosecution and a £120 victim surcharge.
Bray said: "We have been deeply saddened by the events leading to this prosecution and have assisted the CQC throughout its investigations."
Since the time of the incident, he said, the CQC had carried out checks on the home, rating it as "good" with no concerns for the future.
"St Anne's Community Services is absolutely committed to providing the highest level of care to its clients," he said.