A DARLINGTON-based care company has been fined £640,000 after a resident at one of its homes choked to death on a jam doughnut.

The woman, who had dementia, was a resident of Orchard Care Home, Lychgate Road, Tullibody, in Scotland.

HC-One, which runs the home and has its headquarters in Archer Street, Darlington, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following her death in August 2019.

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Falkirk Sheriff Court heard the woman had been given a piece of jam doughnut to eat.

The resident, who had previously suffered from a stroke and had been diagnosed with dementia, was assessed as being at high risk of choking and was on a “minced and moist/fork mashable” diet.

A jam doughnut is unsuitable for someone on this diet and should not have been given to her.

An investigation by the HSE found that staff who gave out snacks at Orchard Care Home had not been properly trained and did not have awareness of food that was suitable for each diet.

They regularly gave this resident food, which was not suitable for her diet, in breach of their own risk assessment.

HC-One Limited of Southgate House, Archer Street, Darlington, pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws and were fined £640.000.

After the hearing, HSE inspector, Allison Aitken said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.

“If a suitable training had been in place prior to the incident, the sad death of a resident could have been avoided."

James Tugendhat, chief executive officer of HC-One said: First and foremost, we offer our heartfelt condolences and apologies to Mrs Hughes’ family and loved ones.  

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

"Additional safeguards are now in place across all our homes to prevent a repeat of an accident like this, and colleagues now complete additional and specific training focused on supporting residents who have modified diets.

"The Care Inspectorate has recognised this work across our homes, as well as the very good care provided at The Orchard today.  

“We are clear that this tragedy should never have happened, and we hope today’s judgement provides Mrs Hughes’ family with some comfort and closure.” 

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