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£1m corporate manslaughter fine for care home

A care home firm has been fined more than £1m for corporate manslaughter after the death of a dementia patient who was put in a scalding bath.

Frances Norris, 93, died three days after the incident at the Birdsgrove Nursing Home in Bracknell in 2015. Home manager Elisabeth West was given a nine-month jail term, suspended for 18 months. Carer Noel Maida was sentenced to 16 weeks, suspended for 18 months.

Both had previously pleaded guilty to failure to discharge a duty.

Mrs Norris had been in the bath for “several minutes” before Maida, 50, and a junior carer realised the water was too hot, the sentencing hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice heard. She was taken to hospital where it was found 12% of her body was covered in serious burns.

Aster Healthcare, which owned the home, later falsified water temperature records it submitted to the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Safety Executive, the court was told.

Home manager West, 46, had been “well aware” of problems with the care home's hot water systems for years, prosecutors told the hearing.

Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Thornton said the company had used “cost-cutting”, “fallen short of standards” and tried to mislead investigators after Mrs Norris' death.

“False records were created and minutes of meetings were rewritten after they had been destroyed,” she said.

A family statement released after the hearing said Mrs Norris had been “robbed off her independence” in the later part of her life and was dependent on carers.

“That trust was shattered when she died at the hands of the care staff at Birdsgrove Nursing Home who were there to look after her and keep her safe,” they added.

The family described Mrs Norris as “warm, generous and kind-hearted”, and said they “have finally got some justice” after a six-and-a-half-year wait.

As well as being fined £1.04m, the company, which had admitted a charge of corporate manslaughter last week, will also have to pay prosecution costs of £184,513.

The home closed in 2016.

BBC News October 2021


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