Stamford: Fine After Death In Care Home

A care home provider fined £140,000 after its failings led to death of elderly patient at home in Stamford.

The Orders of St John Care Trust Limited was prosecuted by South Kesteven District Council at Lincoln Crown Court today following the death of Mrs Dorothy Spicer.

Mrs Spicer was found in the early hours of the morning lying face down in the  grounds of Whitefriars Care Home in Stamford on November 26, 2009.

The Council says she had left the care home some time during the previous evening and was found conscious but hypothermic and in the clothes that she was wearing the previous day.

The authority added that '' a complete lack of adequate handover between shifts meant that Mrs Spicer was left unaccounted for."

Staff leaving the home after the day shift assumed that the night staff would put Mrs Spicer to bed but the night shift assumed that the day shift staff had already safely put Mrs Spicer to bed for the night. 

Some time during the evening she left the home and was found at 05.20am the following morning.

An ambulance was called 80 minutes later and Mrs Spicer was admitted to Peterborough Hospital. 

She was later transferred to Stamford and Rutland Hospital where she died on the January 21, 2010.

A Council investigation into potential health and safety failings concluded that the incident reflected wider corporate, systematic management failings which, if not present, could have prevented her death.

The Trust pleaded guilty to a breach of regulations in November last year.

Judge Michael Heath also sentenced the Trust to pay £65,000 costs.

He said: "Mrs Spicer was a very much loved mother and was a very loving lady herself and this is a very sad case indeed. 

I want the family to know I understand how they feel and the sentence no way carries the value of Mrs Spicer's life as no one can put a value on human life. 

There were corporate and systematic failings which were a significant and substantial cause of Mrs Spicer's death." 

The Council's portfolio holder for healthy environment John Smith said: "Our deepest sympathies are with Mrs Spicer's family in this tragic case. 

We persevered with the prosecution despite lengthy legal arguments and the end guilty plea shows the commitment of the district council to protect the public and investigate fully when the evidence supports a prosecution and it is in the public interest to do so. 

During the investigation, the district council worked closely with our partner agencies including Lincolnshire Police and together we were able to assemble evidence in support of this complex and serious case.

We hope that the sentence in the case sends out a clear message that care for the elderly must improve so that avoidable events like the tragic incident involving Mrs Spicer and the suffering which her family have had to endure cannot happen again."

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