Safety at death fall care home ‘not good enough’, council officer tells court

Matt Matharu at Teesside Crown Court
Matt Matharu at Teesside Crown Court

A COUNCIL officer said a care home’s safety measures were not good enough at the time a 90-year-old resident fell to her death, a court heard.

The senior health and safety officer discovered no chain on the first floor room window where Norah Elliott was able to get out of at Parkview Residential Home in Seaton Carew.

He also took enforcement action against the home after he found broken chains in a number of other upstairs rooms.

And measures put in place in the weeks after Mrs Elliott’s tragic death on October 22, 2012, were still not strong enough to prevent a similar tragedy, Teesside Crown Court heard.

That was the view of Patrick Crowe, a senior environmental health officer for Hartlepool Borough Council who carried out an investigation.

Describing the window where Mrs Elliott had climbed onto a conservatory roof, he said: “There was no chain present and no screws present. There were two holes where it appears screws may have been present before.”

Mr Crowe also looked in a number of other rooms on the first floor and said: “In those rooms I found a number of broken window chains.”

Mr Crowe raised his concerns to owner Matt Matharu, 50, who is standing trial over four alleged health and safety breaches.

Prohibition notices were served by the council on Mrs Elliott’s room and the room opposite where the window was also fitted with a simple chain. The notices prevented them from being used by any residents until suitable window restraints had been put in place.

An Improvement Notice was also served on Mr Matharu for another first floor room, which was being used by a member of staff to sleep in.

The court heard it was after Mr Crowe found a window which could be fully opened and there was no barrier to stop anyone falling onto the concrete below.

Mr Matharu did not appeal against any of the notices, the jury was told.

Mr Crowe returned to the home on October 24 to see new safety arrangements to the windows, but he said they were still not good enough to protect vulnerable residents.

He said the window in Mrs Elliott’s room had been fitted with a chain with a washer fitted to the frame by a single screw on either side.

Mr Crowe said: “I wasn’t happy with the arrangements because it was similar to what was there before.

“My opinion was that it still wasn’t suitable to prevent vulnerable service users getting outside the home.”

Mr Crowe returned again the next day when a stopper had been fitted to the windowsill in Mrs Elliott’s and the adjacent room to prevent the window opening fully inwards.

But Mr Crowe said a resident could still attempt to remove the stopper by using an easily accessible implement like a knife.

The trial also heard a number of documents referred to in the home’s health and safety policy did not exist.

They included audits setting out health and safety priorities for the coming year, minutes of meetings where health and safety could be discussed by staff and the lack of an action plan.

A Risk Assessment for the home was in place and had been reviewed nine times between its creation in 2006 and August 2012. But the court heard the document had not been changed in that time.

Matharu, of Elwick Road, Hartlepool, denies all the charges.

The trial continues.