Care home owners fined £680,000 over life changing injuries caused to elderly resident in fall from bedroom window

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THE owners of a care home have been fined £680,000 after a pensioner suffered life-changing injuries in a 30ft fall from a window at one of its premises.

A judge said safety measures in place to protect vulnerable residents at Lofthouse Grange and Lodge were “wholly inadequate.”

Leeds Crown Court has heard how Barbara Milroy, 85, suffered multiple spinal, pelvic and hip injuries in the fall from a second floor window at the home in Leeds on February 4, 2015.

Owners Orchard Care Homes Limited had been given ‘specific instructions’ in September 2014 over inadequate restraints being in place on windows.

Judge Geoffrey Marson, QC, said the failures had put residents at the 56-bed home in danger of death or serious injury.

He said: “It is clear to me that there is a history here of a significant lack of diligence in this regard and a substantial failure to have proper regard for the safety of vulnerable residents.”

The judge added: “It did not need a report to indicate what was clearly obvious.”

Judge Marson also ordered the company to pay £40,000 court costs.

At a hearing on Monday, a barrister for the company said that despite having an annual turnover of around £19m, the business is “perilously close to insolvency”.

John Cooper, QC, also indicated that the company was at risk of going into administration depending on the financial penalty imposed for the offence.

Mr Cooper said the Harrogate-based company was running at a debt and was overdrawn by around £1.5m.

The court heard restraints should have been fitted to windows at the home to prevent residents opening them beyond 100 millimetres.

After the incident an inspector found that the window Mrs Milroy fell from was able to be opened more than twice that distance.

The court heard the company paid a contractor £690 to fit metal restraints shortly after being instructed to by Leeds City Council.

But no efforts were made afterwards to ensure the work had been carried out properly.

Mrs Milroy had moved in to the home, on Leeds Road, to receive dementia care.

The home was supposed to be more secure than others because of the vulnerability of residents.

Mrs Milroy had made previous attempts to climb out of windows at the home.

On the night of the incident Mrs Milroy became unsettled and accused staff of keeping her against her will.

She went to her bedroom on the second floor shortly before midnight with the aid of a walking frame.

A senior carer went to check on her and found the pensioner holding on to the outside of the window shouting for help before falling to the ground.

She spent eight weeks in hospital and is now completely reliant on carers as a result of her injuries.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Mrs Milroy’s daughter Janet described effects of the life-changing incident in a statement read to the court at the earlier hearing.

It read: “She went from being independent and mobile, being able to wash and dress herself and being relatively independent to being completely reliant on two personal carers and being confined to a wheelchair.

“Mum always loved to be out and about with family members for a coffee and scone and at that time she could walk with a frame.

“We did not know if mum had survived this and it was very traumatic.

“He injuries caused her excruciating pain - we could hear her screaming out in agony.

“I will never forget that that terrible scene.”

A spokesperson Orchard Care Homes Limited said: “The welfare of our residents is our number one priority and, as the Judge acknowledged, we took immediate action following Mrs Milroy’s accident to review our policies and procedures and have made a number of significant changes and improvements. We greatly regret Mrs Milroy’s accident. As an organisation we have learnt lessons and would like to take the opportunity to wish Mrs Milroy well.

“This home is part of the Orchard Care Homes group, which operates 55 homes. The business is robust and has a clear future business plan.”