Care home negligence isn’t just about the individual treatment of residents. A south London care home has been prosecuted by London Fire Brigade for breaking fire safety rules after a serious blaze at the home left several people injured and one resident in hospital on a life support machine.

The fire started when an electric armchair left in a corridor malfunctioned and caught alight. Although the fire had been contained within a ground floor wing of the care home, on arrival firefighters had to rescue a resident who had been overcome by smoke. She later spent over a month recovering in hospital. A number of other residents were injured, with some being transferred to hospital and others being treated at the scene.

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Negligent Fire Safety in Care Homes

Croydon Crown Court heard that, following the incident in October 2013, Fire Brigade Inspectors visited the care home and discovered several fire safety issues that raised concern. The most serious aspect of negligence they found in this care home was the failure to keep the fire escape route clear of combustible furniture. The inspectors concluded that this failure had prevented residents from being able to use the corridor as a fire escape which had resulted in the serious injury to one resident and had risked the lives of other people living in the care home.

GCH (Burrow House) Ltd, who run the care home, were subsequently charged under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 with the offences of not having a fire risk assessment, blocking a fire escape route with combustible materials, wedging fire doors open and failing to keep firefighting equipment in working order.

Accepting negligence in their duty of care regarding fire safety, GCH (Burrow House) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching fire safety laws and were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £42,966.

Making Care Homes Safer

The London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety said, “This was a very serious fire which nearly saw someone lose their life. Protecting London’s most vulnerable residents is our priority. Families entrust the care of their loved ones to places such as this, and to find people being put at risk from fires in places where they should be safe in this way is totally unacceptable. Building owners and care home managers have a clear responsibility under fire safety laws to ensure that people living in their premises are safe from the risk of fire. If we find people are ignoring those responsibilities, we won’t hesitate to prosecute. The fine handed down in this case should serve as a stark warning that the courts take these matters just as seriously as we do.”

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident as the London Fire Brigade are called to around ten fires per week in care facilities. Their concern about fire safety in care homes is so great that the London Fire Brigade has been campaigning for better fire safety in sheltered accommodation and care homes.

The Assistant Commissioner continued, “People living in sheltered accommodation and extra care facilities are often very vulnerable to fire. They may have limited mobility, or a disability, which makes it difficult for them to notice a fire and react quickly. That’s why it is so important care providers and care home owners take their fire safety responsibilities seriously and why we are working with them to improve fire safety where needed.”

Georgina Parkin a solicitor and director at Truth Legal, specialising in care home compensation claims on behalf of victims and their families, said

Although we are still in effect living in an era of austerity, care homes must keep their residents safe. During my career I have noticed an increase in the number of serious problems at care homes across the country. This is an unacceptable state of affairs and action is needed at the governmental level. Too many residents of care homes are receiving substandard care, leading to dangerous occurrences and accidents.”

While a criminal prosecution punishes the care home management for their failings, this may be of little comfort to you if you or a loved one has suffered as the result of negligence. Compensation can never make up for such treatment, but it may ease financial difficulties that arise from it. Truth Legal are specialists in this area of law, and we represent injured people throughout the country. If you have been injured in a care home, or if you are the relative of someone who has suffered injury in a care home, and you want a confidential, no-obligation consultation, please get in touch with one of our specialist solicitors today.

If you’re already pursuing a claim for care home negligence, injury or abuse but feel that your current solicitors do not have the correct level of expertise, you can consider changing solicitors.

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Catherine Reynolds
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