Chorley care home fined over fish and chips choke death

Rita Smith Rita Smith should not have been given solid food, the court heard

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One of the UK's largest care home firms has been fined £125,000 over the death of a resident who choked on a portion of fish and chips.

Rita Smith, 75, who had difficulty swallowing, died at Euxton Park Care Home in Chorley, Lancashire, in 2010.

The home's owners, Four Seasons Health Care (England) Ltd, admitted breaches of health and safety legislation.

Miss Smith had motor neurone disease and dementia and should have been given pureed food, supervised by a carer.

Slumped in chair

However, Preston Crown Court heard that two weeks after her admission she was given fish and chips in a cone at a film night staged at the Wigan Road care home.

A staff member cleaning up after the meal, on 1 December 2010, found Miss Smith slumped in a chair. She was pronounced dead despite attempts to resuscitate her.

Health and Safety Executive Inspector Shellie Bee said: "This was a tragic death which could have been avoided if Four Seasons Health Care made sure systems were in place to protect residents. As it was, a vulnerable and elderly woman paid the price for their failures."

A statement from Miss Smith's family said: "Our hope is that the seriousness and financial implications of this case for the company will ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again at a Four Seasons or any other care home."

Four Seasons apologised for the "human errors" that led to the death and said it had changed its risk management and reporting.

The company, which runs more than 500 care homes, was also ordered to pay £45,000 in costs.

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