Co Down care home fined £20k after resident died from choking on a pancake

A care home in Co Down has been fined £20,000 over the death of a resident who choked on a pancake.

Care Ltd of Main Street, Ballynahinch previously pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of a non-employee under health and safety regulations.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard Edward McCullough had been a resident of Ringdufferin Nursing Home in the city since July 2015.

Prosecutor’s attorney Laura Ivers told Judge Geoffery Miller KC that a feeding plan was drawn up for Mr McCullough when he was admitted to the home because he was deemed to be at risk of choking.

The plan of care stipulated that Mr McCullough should be given only mashed or pureed food and liquid and “no bread should be allowed”.

Ms Ivers said that on November 21, 2016, the 87-year-old was found uneasy by staff and a decision was made to move him to the activity room where an outside contractor was running a baking class for residents of the Dunmore unit.

“Unfortunately the outside coordinator of the bakery class gave Mr McCullough a freshly baked pancake and he ate it. It wasn’t pureed,” Ms Ivers said.

“A short time later, she noticed that he was having trouble swallowing. A nurse administered first aid but despite the best efforts of staff and paramedics, Mr McCullough died in his private room some time later.”

The court heard that M Care Ltd’s guilty plea accepted that it had a duty to ensure the outside coordinator was made aware that “Under no circumstances should Edward McCullough be given a pancake unless it was mashed”.

Defense attorney Frank O’Donoghue KC said on behalf of the home that this was the company’s first violation of health and safety codes.

He said the company takes such violations “very seriously”, has an “excellent track record of care” and has since implemented and improved measures at the home to prevent a recurrence.

“The Company recognizes the emotion and pain that was most eloquently expressed during the course of the victim impact testimony of Mr. McCullough’s children.

“This is a very tragic case where a beloved gentleman who had a very cherished life and was of great service to his family and local community lost his life in circumstances that should not have happened.

“The circumstances in which he died are extremely distressing for the family and the company fully recognizes that everyone is deeply affected. Mr McCullough was loved very much at the home and the home staff were also deeply affected by this case. ”

In sentencing, Judge Miller KC said the breach of duty of care “was material because the risk of serious injury was clearly foreseeable by feeding a vulnerable patient foods other than those specified in his or her diet.

The judge added: “Mr McCullough’s death and manner was both untimely and distressing for his family.

“This was an isolated case of negligent negligence.

“Nothing this court says or does can undo what has been done, and the imposition of a fine, large or small, cannot restore life lost.” Co Down care home fined £20k after resident died from choking on a pancake

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