Fife care home firm fined after death of pensioner

Lomond Court care home
Lomond Court care home

A Glenrothes family say they are happy that the company which owns the care home where their beloved husband and father died after swallowing chlorine tablets for cleaning, has finally admitted its guilt.

But James McConnell’s eldest son said: “It’s ironic that we put him in the care home for his own safety as he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.”

Their statement was made on Tuesday as HC One Ltd, whose head office is in Dalington, was fined £270,000 for failing to ensure the health and safety of residents in Lomond Court Care Home, Woodside Way, Glenrothes.

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The company was convicted of failing to assess the risk presented by four chemical products, including Titan Chlor Plus chlorine tablets which Mr McConnell (71) swallowed. He died a week later from complications from aspirational pneumonia.

HC One admitted failing to have adequate system of works to manage deliveries of chemical products or an appropriate review procedure.

Shona Mc Jannett, depute procurator fiscal, told the court how on August 4 2015 around 7.30am a delivery of cleaning products had been left unattended in a corridor next to a storeroom for housekeeping staff to put away.

Around 8am Mr McConnell was found next to a box containing a tub of 200 unwrapped chlorine tablets which looked like mints.

“He was in distress with his eyes streaming and mouth foaming” said the fiscal, adding that one tablet was on the floor and he had “the remains of at least one tablet in his mouth”.

He was encouraged to spit out the tablets and given sips of milk and water while waiting for an ambulance.

In the ambulance he was violently sick. At the hospital he had blood tests and an ECG and was given more milk before being discharged and taken back to the care home.

Over the next few days his condition deteriorated and he had little more than a few sips of milk and was still in discomfort with blisters on his tongue and his breathing became laboured.

His GP was called and he was taken back to hospital as an emergency admission. His condition continued to deteriorate and he died on August 11.

Defence agent Murdo Macleod QC said the company had introduced a raft of improved safety procedures and checks following the incident.

Fining the company, Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist said: “Today’s proceedings must have made painful listening for those close to Mr McConnell who are present in court.

“I need to stress the exercise I have to engage in is in no way seen as an attempt to put a value on Mr McConnell’s life. It’s not possible to do that in financial terms.”

In a statement HC One’s chief operating officer, who apologised in person to Mr McConnell’s family, said: “Whilst nothing can atone for their sad loss we hope today provides some sense of closure for them.

“We have always been clear that lessons must be learned from this tragic event, as the health and safety of our residents is our absolute priority.”

HC One Ltd have been in operation since 2011 and currently have 331 care homes around the UK.