York & North Yorkshire

Oaklands care home fined £1.6m over hypothermia death

Oaklands Country Care Home, Kirk Hammerton Image copyright Tim Dale

The owners of a care home have been fined £1.6m after a 91-year-old woman died from hypothermia.

Mrs Annie Barritt was found ill in her room at Oaklands Country Care Home, at Kirk Hammerton near York, on 4 November 2012 and died later in hospital.

An investigation revealed problems with the home's heating system.

The home's owners, Maria Mallaband Care Group Ltd of Leeds, pleaded guilty to one breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Read more about this and other stories from across North Yorkshire

York Crown Court was told Mrs Barritt suffered from dementia and would have required 24-hour care.

When she was admitted to hospital her body temperature was 25.3C rather than the usual 37C.

An investigation by Harrogate Borough Council found that, in addition to the faulty heating system, Mrs Barritt had not been given any hot food or drink on the day of her death.

'Beggars belief'

Staff had also not updated her care plan after she was discharged from hospital a week before her death.

Tony Moule, environmental health officer at the council, said: "No fine can ever compensate the family for the loss of their mother in such shocking circumstances.

"For an elderly vulnerable person to suffer hypothermia, whilst in bed in her room under the care of a national care provider, beggars belief."

Mrs Barritt's sons, David and Anthony, said: "It is hard to believe that an elderly lady with dementia could be treated in such an appalling way in a care home that claimed to specialise in the care of such vulnerable people."

They added they hoped their mother's "sad and unnecessary" death would lead to an improvement of standards at the home.

Maria Mallaband Care Group Ltd said in a statement it wished to offer its "deepest sympathies" to Mrs Barritt's family.

It continued: "They trusted us to look after their loved one and we failed, and for this we are very sorry."

It said a number of improvements had been made since Mrs Barritt's death and the home was currently rated as 'good' by the Care Quality Commission.

In addition to the fine the company was ordered to pay the council's costs of £45,560.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites