Four Seasons in court over fatal choking

Four Seasons Health Care is due to appear in court on Friday to be prosecuted over the death in 2010 of an elderly resident who choked to death on fish and chips in a care home in Chorley.

The Health & Safety Executive is bringing criminal proceedings against Four Seasons Health Care (England) Ltd following the incident at Euxton Park Care Home on 1 December 2010.
Rita Smith, who suffered from the early onset of dementia and motor neuron disease, should only have eaten pureed food supervised by a carer as she suffered from swallowing difficulties and was at risk of choking. However, the 75-year-old was given fish and chips during a film and supper evening.

Four Seasons Health Care (England) Ltd, part of the Four Seasons Group, which runs more than 500 care homes and specialist care centres in the UK, was charged with breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Four Seasons Health Care said in a statement today: "Mrs Smith's death was a tragic loss. Our thoughts and sympathies go out again to her family at this time. It was also deeply distressing for the staff who cared for her.

"Mrs Smith had attended a movie evening at the home and as part of the event staff offered residents a fish and chip supper. Unfortunately as a result of a medical condition Mrs Smith had difficulty swallowing and should not have been offered solid food, which led to her collapsing. Staff tried to clear her airways and an ambulance was called to take her to hospital where sadly she died in the early hours of the following morning.

"We accept that being offered solid food led to her death. We are deeply sorry for the errors that ultimately led to this terrible accident. It is poignant that it occurred as a result of well-intentioned staff providing an evening's entertainment and a treat for residents.

"As a result of this incident we have made changes to improve risk management and reporting relating to diet. However, it is our view that this tragedy was the result of human error, for which we must accept responsibility."

The company, of Groves Road in Douglas, Isle of Man, is due to appear before Preston Magistrates' Court on Friday 18 October 2013 for the first hearing in the case.

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