Healthcare firm fined £150,000

A private healthcare company based in Yorkshire was fined £150,000 yesterday after admitting failing to ensure the health and safety of residents at a nursing home where an elderly woman was strangled to death by a wheelchair lap belt.

Brigid O'Callaghan, 74, known as Vera, from Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, was found dead on the morning of October 28, 2005 at Amberley Court Nursing Home in Edgbaston Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The city's crown court heard that there was "a degree of sloppiness" in standards at the home, run by Bupa Care Homes (BNH) Ltd, of Leeds, at the time of the death.

Judge Robert Juckes QC said: "Plainly there was a falling away from the standards which the defendants in this case do set for nurses. Inspections both before and after the death demonstrate there was a degree of sloppiness in the running of the house in the months leading up to the death."

The court heard that Mrs O'Callaghan, who had Alzheimer's disease, was asphyxiated after slipping from her wheelchair some time after she was taken to her room by care workers on October 27 following a party.

Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood said a nurse and two care assistants working on the night Mrs O'Callaghan died "were all performing below par" and did not check on her through the night.

The company pleaded guilty to one count of failing to ensure that residents, including Mrs O'Callaghan, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, contrary to S3(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It admitted a second count relating to other breaches, at an earlier hearing.

The judge ordered the firm to pay 150,000 in fines and the same amount in costs.