A care home near Harrogate has been fined £1.6m after allowing an elderly dementia sufferer to freeze to death.
Ninety-one-year-old Annie Barritt was so cold when she was brought into hospital on November 12, 2014, that she died the same day of hypothermia.
Speaking yesterday at a hearing into health and safety failings at the care home looking after her, The Recorder of York, Judge Paul Batty QC said it was an “accident waiting to happen”.
There were “systematic, systemic failures” in her care, he said, adding that when she was brought into hospital “her body temperature was at a level barely compatible with human life’.
During the hearing, York Crown Court heard the dementia sufferer had not been given any hot food or drink as she spent her last day asleep in her room at Oaklands Country Rest Home in Kirk Hammerton.
In the week before her death she had suffered a fall, the court heard, and her discharge papers clearly stated she needed to be kept warm. But tragically Mrs Barritt died after suffering from hypothermia, despite two nurses checking on her around 10 times.
David Hercock, prosecuting on behalf of Harrogate District Council, said: “By the time a night shift nurse realised she was in trouble at 7.50pm, she felt ice cold, she wasn’t breathing and her temperature was so low it couldn’t register on a standard thermometer. She was taken by ambulance to Harrogate District Hospital, but died there later the same day. She was suffering from hypothermia. Her core temperature was 25.3 degrees centigrade, nearly ten degrees below the hypothermia threshold.”
Maria Mallaband Care Ltd, of Leeds, pleaded guilty to a health and safety charge relating to Mrs Barritt’s death at an earlier hearing in June 2016. Radiators were never maintained, previous hearings had been told, and had been inexpertly repaired. At the time the home ran 30 homes across the country, including Oaklands, and cared for 2,600 residents.
Fining the company £1.6m and £45,560 in prosecution costs, Judge Batty QC said: “It can be seen that this case does not involve an isolated and tragic act. The death of this much loved lady I regret to say in the context of this case was an accident waiting to happen. It my judgment it is very serious and there were systematic, systemic failures in that care home.”
Mrs Barritt, who originally went to the home in July 2012 for three weeks, stayed there until her death in November.
Judge Batty QC told the court that Mrs Barritt was admitted to the home suffering from dementia after much soul searching by her “loving and attentive family”.
He described how Mrs Barritt suffered from dementia and was unable to make decisions, adding: “Accordingly she was totally reliant upon those who care for her and other in the home.”
He explained the company were under an obligation to care for Mrs Barritt. “They did so in my judgment wholly inadequately.”