A care home in York has been fined £1.6m after being found guilty of allowing a 91-year-old dementia sufferer to freeze to death. Annie Barritt, a resident at Oaklands Country Rest Home, died of severe hypothermia on 4 November, 2012, after being found ill in her room.
A hearing at York Crown Court revealed Barritt was admitted to hospital with her body temperature at a critical 25.3C rather than the body's median temperature of 37C. She was so cold her temperature would not register on a standard thermometer and was nearly 10 degrees below the hypothermia threshold of 35C.
Barritt, who required 24-hour care, had not been given any hot food or drink that day and was checked upon by two nurses around 10 times that day. Her hospital discharge papers explicitly stated that she needed to be kept warm at the care home.
The facility's owners, Maria Mallaband Care Group Ltd of Leeds, pleaded guilty to one breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined on Wednesday 28 September. The judge presiding over the case, Judge Paul Batty QC, described the incident as an "accident waiting to happen".
Following the decision, Barritt's family said in a statement: "The last four years have been very hard for the family, coming to terms with the tragic circumstances of Mum's death from hypothermia.
"It is hard to believe an elderly lady with dementia could be treated in such an appalling way in a care home that claimed to specialise in care for vulnerable people. A fine, no matter how large, could never replace a loved one: what price can you put on your mother's life?"
Passing sentence, Batty said Barritt had a "body temperature barely compatible with human life."
He continued: "This case did not involve one isolated and tragic act. The death of this much loved lady was an accident waiting to happen. It is in my view very serious. There was systematic failure in that care home," according to a report by the Daily Express.
In June of this year, Maria Mallaband Care ran 30 homes for the elderly caring for 2,600 residents. They have an annual turnover of £50m but the Oaklands home lost £1.75m in 2015, and £4.2m in 2016.
The court also heard that investigations into Barritt's death revealed that the radiators in her room, as well as other rooms, were never sufficiently maintained. It was also stated that the care home had also been warned for two years that the oil-fired heating in the building was faulty.
In a statement after the hearing, The Maria Mallaband Care Group said: "We would like to express again our deepest sympathies to the family of Mrs Barritt. They trusted us to look after their loved one and we failed, and for this we are very sorry."