Scotland : Tullibody care home resident choked to death on doughnut

A care home company has been fined £640,000 after one of its residents choked on a piece of doughnut and died.

The 65-year-old resident of Orchard Care Home in Clackmannanshire was on a specialist diet and should not have been given the doughnut.

The woman, who died in August 2019, had previously been assessed as being at risk of choking.

HC-One Limited, which runs the care home in Tullibody, pleaded guilty to health and safety failings.

The woman was on a diet of minced and moist food after a severe stroke and vascular dementia left her at risk of choking.

Bread products were not considered suitable for her diet as they could not be mashed small enough.

However, she was given a piece of jam doughnut as a snack from the tea trolley on 7 August 2019. The 65-year-old died despite the efforts of care home staff and paramedics to remove the food.

The Crown Office said that prior to her death, the resident had frequently been given sandwiches from the snack trolley, repeatedly putting her at risk.

Main meals at the care home were prepared by the kitchen and labelled with each resident’s name.

However, the snack trolley did not have information on modified diets or food suitability. Staff in charge of the trolley had also not had sufficient training.

HC-One Limited has since made changes at the home to ensure the snack trolley has suitable food for all residents, the Crown Office said.

Alistair Duncan, head of the health and safety investigation unit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said the death could have been prevented if “suitable training and procedures” had been in place.

“HC-One Limited left all residents at risk by failing to ensure modified diets were adhered to and staff had the relevant knowledge to keep those in their care safe,” he said.

“This prosecution should reiterate the need for all care homes to protect their residents and remind them they will be held accountable if they fail to do so.

“Our thoughts are with the family of the resident at what must be a difficult time for them.”

The company pleaded guilty to failings under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 during a hearing at Falkirk Sheriff Court.

James Tugendhat, chief executive officer of HC-One, said he hoped the court judgement would provide Mrs Hughes’ family with “some comfort and closure”.

He added: “It was vitally important to us that lessons were learned when this occurred in 2019.

“We are clear that this tragedy should never have happened.”