A care home provider has been ordered to pay more than £47,000 in connection with the death of a vulnerable 93-year-old resident after exposing her to a "significant risk of avoidable harm". 

Premier Care Homes Limited was fined £20,000 in court yesterday (Friday, November 3) after it failed to provide safe care and treatment to one of their residents in their Chester-le-Street establishment.

It was also ordered to pay a £181 victim surcharge and £27,500 costs to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which brought this prosecution. 

Premier Care Homes Limited pleaded guilty to one offence of failing to discharge their duties under Regulations 12 and 22 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. This was in relation to the care of the woman, who was at risk of falls while she was living at Picktree Court Care Home. 

Picktree Court (run by Premier Care Homes Limited) is a residential care home in Chester-le-Street, Durham. It provides personal and nursing care to people, including some living with dementia. 

The woman became a resident at Picktree Court on October 31, 2019, aged 93.  In the weeks before her arrival at the home, the manager had carried out a pre-admission assessment, showing she had a history of falls. 

Although the home was aware of the risks, the woman had a number of falls whilst living at the care home, including slipping from a toilet, as well as some unwitnessed falls where she was found on the floor by staff.  

At the time of her death, she experienced a range of health conditions including frailty, and she had sustained fractures of the hip, spine, and ribs.  

The provider failed to ensure that she had the necessary support in place to reduce the likelihood of falls. Despite there being monthly reviews of her care and risk assessments, these reviews should have identified if the measures in place were working and if further actions needed to be put in place to minimise the risks to her. 

CQC brought the prosecution as it believed that if Premier Care Homes Limited had put effective systems in place, the woman would not have been exposed to such a significant risk of harm. 

There are a number of enforcement actions CQC can and will take before prosecution to encourage and support improvement. People are entitled to receive safe care and treatment when they put their trust in health and care services, and providers should be held to account when significant avoidable failures occur. 

Alison Chilton, CQC deputy director of operations in the North, said: “This is a tragic case and my thoughts are with [the woman's] family following her death. 

“People who are vulnerable should be able to expect safe care and treatment. It is unacceptable that [the woman's] safety wasn’t well managed by Picktree Court when she needed them the most. This is why I welcome their guilty plea. 

Recommended reading: 

“It is also unacceptable that Picktree Court failed to put in place precautions following their acknowledgement of the risk of falls to [the woman], which could potentially have avoided this tragic outcome.  

“We know that the majority of people receive good care when they move to a residential home, but if we find a provider has put people in its care at risk of harm, we take action to hold it to account and protect people in future. 

“I hope this prosecution reminds Premier Care Homes Limited, and other health and social care organisations they must provide care in a safe environment that meets people’s needs and starts to provide this woman’s family with small degree of closure.”