Death of a Vulnerable Elderly Lady leads to £400,000 Fine

Together we are Forbes


03 April, 2024

Rebecca Davidson
Trainee Solicitor

Susan Greens, a 95 year old resident of Springfield Bank Care Home in Scotland was missing from the grounds on the night of 16th December 2021. Following a search for the missing resident, care assistants located Mrs Greens outside in a courtyard after a fall which had caused injury to her head. Mrs Greens had been left out in the cold for up to an hour and a half in her nightwear before staff could come to her aid. Mrs Greens sadly died in hospital two days later because of her injuries.

Springfield Bank, ran by HC-One Ltd, specialises in the offering of nursing and dementia care. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive ('HSE'), found that Mrs Greens had been able to access the courtyard, through doors that had been left unlocked at night and was unsupervised.

As a result of the investigation, HC-One Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) and Section 33 (1) (A) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 ('the Act'). A statement has been published by HSE inspector Kerry Cringan that states this tragedy was "wholly avoidable" …

"had the doors been kept locked at night or a system in place to alert staff as to the courtyard doors being opened". As a result, HC-One Ltd were fined £400,000 for the breach that sadly resulted in the loss of a resident's life.

Following the incident, HC-One Ltd have published a statement outlining that a review of the safety and security in all their homes have taken place to ensure full compliance with the Act. Further, additional training has been given to all staff, as well as additional monitoring and supervision practices being implemented, and new door alarms have been installed at all their homes.

Forbes Comment

This case highlights the importance for care homes to seriously consider the principles of health and safety as they apply to the vulnerability of the resident that they care for. Keeping doors locked on the premises, to keep its residents safe, is a fundamental consideration of safety particularly in an environment where residents lack capacity. Compliance with health and safety regulations is fundamental to all businesses to function effectively but of particular concern when caring for the vulnerable. It is a prime example of how a failure to comply with basic health and safety principles can in fact lead to that "worst case scenario" and in this case, has led to the tragic loss life, a £400,000 fine and negative press for HC-One Ltd.

Further, it reinstates the onus on companies to provide extensive, regulated, and informative training for its staff in order to avoid a breach from occurring. There is a clear obligation on a care provider to ensure that all appropriate health and safety measures are thoroughly implemented within a residential unit. In cases where there is a failure to comply with the Act or a failure to have the appropriate systems in place, the risks are high, and the care provider will be found guilty and hefty fines will be issued as a result.

For more information contact Kella Bowers in our Care department via email or phone on 01254 222437. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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