Care provider fined £81,000 after putting residents 'at risk'

Pine Heath nursing home in High Kelling, which contained boxes of patient records, staff notes and s

The now deserted Pine Heath nursing home in High Kelling. - Credit: Archant

The firm behind a care home for the elderly has been fined £81,000 for putting its residents at significant risk of avoidable harm when both its boilers broke down.

Diamond Care (UK) Limited, former owner of Pine Heath in High Kelling, near Holt, was sentenced at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, September 30.

Pine Heath nursing home in High Kelling, which contained boxes of patient records, staff notes and s

Pine Heath nursing home in High Kelling. - Credit: Archant

Prosecution was brought by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Matthew Jenkins, its head of inspection for adult social care, said: “Care providers have a legal duty to take all reasonable steps to protect people in their care from risks to their health and wellbeing.

“Diamond Care failed its residents in this as it did not adequately maintain Pine Heath’s boilers, despite warnings they were not in good working order. When these boilers inevitably failed, vulnerable people – whose health could be jeopardised by prolonged exposure to cold – faced a significant risk of avoidable harm. 

High Kelling, Pine Heath Nursing Home sign. Ed Foss copy 16 11 2001

File photo of the sign at Pine Heath Nursing Home in High Kelling. - Credit: Archant

“The majority of care providers do an excellent job. However, when a provider puts people in its care at risk, we take action to hold it to account and protect people."

The poor condition of Pine Heath’s two ageing boilers was raised by environmental health officials in 2015, but essential maintenance was not carried out. 

One of the boilers broke down completely a year later, but no action was taken, the CQC said.

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After five more months - in November 2016 - the other boiler broke down, leaving Pine Heath's 40 residents without heating or hot water, when outside temperatures reached below freezing.

Although portable electric heaters were eventually provided in residents’ rooms, thermometers to ensure adequate temperatures were not issued for over a week, the CQC said. Residents also had to bathe in cold water for several days.   

The health risks were worsened by the poor condition of the building, which lacked sufficient insulation and had unfit windows - which maintenance checklists repeatedly flagged as needing repair.

Diamond UK pleaded guilty to the offence of putting its residents at significant risk of avoidable harm, because it had not acted after being told Pine Heath’s boilers were likely to fail.

The care home closed in 2017. As revealed by this newspaper in June, dozens of confidential patient records, staff notes and sensitive files were left unsecured for years in the abandoned building

Diamond Care was also ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge, and £5,500 in costs to the CQC.

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