On 12 January 2022, HC-One Limited was fined £640,000 following the death of a resident who choked on a piece of food given to her by staff. The incident in question took place at HC-One's Orchard Care Home in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, one of over 300 care homes run by company across the UK.

HC-One pled guilty to breaching s3(1) and s33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, meaning that they accepted they had failed in their duty to ensure that non-employees should not be exposed to health and safety risks as far as is reasonably practicable.

The incident took place on 7 August 2019. The deceased had suffered from vascular dementia and had previously had a stroke. As a result, HC-One's own risk assessments considered her to be at high risk of choking and she had been placed on a diet of minced and moist food. However, on the day of her death, the resident was given a piece of jam doughnut by staff who had not been provided with training or information on modified diets or the suitability of certain foods. It was understood this was not an isolated incident and the resident was often given food products from the snack trolley that posed a danger to her. It is understood the care home has since made changes to ensure that the snack trolley has suitable food for all residents and that training has also been undertaken.

This case emphasises how crucial it is that all care home staff have the necessary training to enable them to protect the health and safety of vulnerable residents, and puts into focus the need for robust record-keeping and monitoring systems to underpin this. The level of fine imposed on HC-One may reflect its status as one of the UK's largest care providers, with turnover of over £339 million in 2020. As discussed previously, sentencing guidelines direct judges to consider culpability, harm factors, turnover, and whether the fine imposed fulfils its objective to act as a deterrent to lax health and safety compliance.

If you have any queries regarding this update, or general care sector health & safety questions, please contact Lynn Livesey.

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Lynn Livesey

Legal Director