Care home fined £100,000 after woman choked to death on marshmallow

Shirley Breeze suffered two cardiac arrests and a seizure which led to her being placed in an induced coma.

Fife housing association fined £100,000 over woman who choked to death on marshmallow iStock

A housing association in Fife has been fined £100,000 after the death of a vulnerable woman in its care.

On November 30, 2019, Shirley Breeze choked after her support worker gave her a marshmallow that was not suitable for her dietary needs.

The 64-year-old then suffered two cardiac arrests and a seizure which led to her being placed in an induced coma.

Ms Breeze died on December 2, 2019.

She was in the care of Ark Housing Association Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation which provides care, support, and housing for adults with complex needs.

The Crown Office said the association pled guilty to a health and safety at work breach committed between October 2018 and November 2019 at a hearing at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Thursday.

Ms Breeze had severe learning disabilities and had been in the care of Ark since October 2006.

She was provided with 24/7 support to live independently in her own flat, and had been assessed as at risk of choking following an incident in June 2017.

Following the 2017 incident, she had been on a modified “soft” diet, and had an eating and drinking plan in place alongside a menu of suitable foods.

Prosecutors said Ark failed to ensure staff were given adequate training on her diet or were sufficiently familiar with the high-risk food groups and the practice of changing or adding items to the menu planner, which contributed to unsuitable foods being given to Ms Breeze.

They said it was “entirely foreseeable” that if support workers were not properly trained or instructed in the suitability of foods, they might offer foods which were unsuitable, and choking may result.

Speaking after the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said: ”The death of this vulnerable woman could have been prevented if suitable training and procedures had been in place.

“Ark Housing Association Ltd left service users at risk by failing to ensure staff had the relevant knowledge and training on modified diets for those in their care.

“This prosecution should highlight to other similar organisations that failure to fulfil their health and safety obligations can have tragic consequences and remind them they will be held accountable for their failings.”

A spokesperson for Ark Housing Association said: “This was a tragic accident which cost the life of someone we had looked after for 20 years.

“We immediately identified where we had failed Shirley and took full responsibility for this tragic accident.

“Over the past three years we have worked tirelessly to develop the most robust approach to training and support for our staff teams in this area.

“We hope those actions, and our work with a number of other agencies in our sector, can play an important role in preventing any repeat of this awful incident.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code