Care home firm Craysell Ltd fined for choking death
A company which ran a care home at which an elderly woman choked to death on a meatball has been fined £80,000.
Margaret Humphreys, 84, died in August 2014 after being admitted for a respite stay in Marlborough House near Fleet, Hampshire.
Craysell Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety legislation and has apologised to the family.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the death was "completely avoidable".
Mrs Humphreys was staying in the home in August 2014 while her family, with whom she normally lived, went on holiday.
She had previously had short stays at the home in Church Crookham on a number of occasions.
Mrs Humphreys had previously suffered a stroke which left her unable to chew large pieces of food.
It meant she needed supervision while eating, including having meals cut into small pieces.
After the hearing at Winchester Crown Court, her daughter Gayle Gunner said staff were "given clear instructions" on a laminated sign about food having to be cut.
She said: "It is a really difficult decision to leave a relative in respite care, but it's done in the hope that they will get the best quality of care when the family is in need of respite.
"It is therefore crushing to learn how mum died and we feel the care home betrayed our trust."
HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said there had been a "systematic failure" at the 40-bed care home.
He added: "Had a risk assessment of Mrs Humphreys been carried out, they would have identified the risk that she would have chocked if she was fed uncut food.
"It's a message to the care sector to risk assess and treat respite residents as they would their permanent residents."
Craysell Ltd had to pay almost £20,000 in costs.
In a statement, the company reiterated its "sincerest apologies" to Mrs Humphreys's family.
"As soon as this incident occurred, we overhauled our processes and procedures and provided re-training for all staff in order to give assurances to residents and relatives," it added.