Bupa has been ordered to pay a record £1.04m after a resident died while smoking at one of its care homes.
The care home operator was fined £937,500 for safety failings and ordered to pay £104,000 to meet London Fire Brigade’s prosecution costs at Southwark Crown Court.
Cedric Skyers, a 96-year-old wheelchair user, died whilst smoking unsupervised in a shelter in the garden of Manley Court care home in Brockley in March 2016.
A care assistant witnessed the fire from a first-floor window and called 999 before staff attempted to put the fire out but Mr Skyers sadly died from his injuries.
An investigation found that although a smoking risk assessment had been carried out it did not assess Mr Skyers’ use of emollient creams, which can contain paraffin and can be flammable if allowed to be build up on skin, clothing or bedding.
Apparent burns marks indicative of previous incidents were also found on Mr Skyers’ clothing after his death. Staff said they had not seen the marks and therefore had not carried out more regular checks of Mr Skyers when he was smoking.
The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Paul Jennings, said: “This case is an absolutely tragic example of what the devastating consequences of failure to comply with fire safety regulations can be.
“There are a number of measures which the home could have put in place to mitigate the fire risk which Mr Skyers’ limited mobility, emollient cream use and smoking posed – but none of these were implemented.
“Mr Skyers’ family should rightly have been able to trust that he would be safe in a care home, when sadly the opposite was true.”
Donald Day, Operations Director for Manley Court care home, said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Mr Skyers’ family.
“Following this tragic accident in 2016 we took immediate action across all our care homes to prevent it from happening again. We take fire safety extremely seriously and have in place detailed risk assessments for all our residents that smoke, increased supervision and we ensure our teams are regularly trained in fire safety measures.
“The wellbeing of residents in our care is always our priority and we are committed to keeping everyone in our homes safe.”
Bupa said it had introduced Comprehensive Risk Assessments for residents who smoke as well as regular staff training on self-harm, equipment, resident immobility, supervision, paraffin based emollient creams and smoking aprons and supervision.