Council fined £100,000 after vulnerable man died choking on sandwich

The 66-year-old man was on a specialist diet and should only have been served food soft and bite-sized.

Fife Council fined £100,000 after resident in supported living accommodation died choking on sandwich © Google Maps 2024

A council has been fined £100,000 over health and safety breaches after a vulnerable man choked to death on a sandwich in Fife.

Brian Millar was on a specialist diet and was only to be given food that was carefully prepared to ensure it was soft and bite-sized. He also should have been closely supervised to ensure his safety while eating.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that in its role to support the care of those who live in supported living accommodation, Fife Council was responsible for the safe ingestion of food for the 66-year-old.

However, on June 4, 2020, Mr Millar was given a sandwich by a carer while resident in accommodation in Kirkcaldy.

Despite the efforts of care home staff and paramedics, he choked on the sandwich and died.

HSE said Fife Council pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at a hearing at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on April 23.

The council was fined £100,000 and the sheriff also directed that a compensation order of £50,000 should be paid to Mr Millar’s family.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Kerry Cringan said: “It is tragic when a vulnerable person dies in circumstances which were completely avoidable.

“Sadly, it is not uncommon for us to be informed of deaths where people in care choke on high-risk foods that were not suitable for their diet.

“Care providers must be guided by speech and language therapy professionals and then ensure their staff are trained to understand what those recommendations mean.

“They should be aware that we will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those who fail to train staff in the importance of following modified texture diets.”

A spokesperson for Fife Health and Social Care Partnership said: “The loss of Mr Millar was a tragedy and we deeply regret the circumstances which led to the incident.

“We would also like to extend our sympathies and condolences to all who knew and cared for Mr Millar.

“We remain committed to continuous service improvement and in the period since the incident in 2020, the Partnership has put a range of measures into place which includes a comprehensive and ongoing training programme for our staff and changes to the way we document and share care plans for the people we care for.”

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