BUPA has been fined more than a million pounds after a resident died in a fire at a New Cross care home.
Wheelchair user Cedric Skyers, 69, died in 2016 after the cigarette he was smoking set light to the highly flammable emollient cream that had rubbed into his skin and clothes.
He was living at the Manley Court care home on John Williams Close in New Cross, where the tragic incident took place.
BUPA Care Services, which runs the home, was fined £937,500 for fire safety failings and told to pay £104,000 prosecution costs at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday (January 5) – the highest ever fine for fire safety failings.
The case against healthcare giant BUPA was brought by the London Fire Brigade, who were called to put out the fire.
A care home worker saw the fire from a first-floor window after Mr Skyers started smoking unsupervised in the designated outside area in March 2016. The care assistant called 999 for help and staff tried to put the fire out, but it was too late. Mr Skyers died of his injuries.
The investigation found that a risk assessment for Mr Skyers smoking had been done, but did not take into account the danger of the emollient cream.
Burn marks were also found on Mr Skyers clothes, suggesting that incidents like this had taken place before the fatal day. Staff said they did not know about these and would have done more to check on him while he was smoking if they were aware.
The fire brigade brought the case against BUPA that it had not done its fire safety duties, putting Mr Skyers and other residents at risk of death or serious injury if there were a fire. BUPA pleaded guilty.
Assistant commissioner for fire safety Paul Jennings said: “This case is an absolutely tragic example of what the devastating consequences of failure to comply with fire safety regulations can be.
“There are a number of measures which the home could have put in place to mitigate the fire risk which Mr Skyers’ limited mobility, emollient cream use and smoking posed – but none of these were implemented.
“Mr Skyers’ family should rightly have been able to trust that he would be safe in a care home, when sadly the opposite was true.
“Such a large fine highlights the seriousness of BUPA’s failure to protect a vulnerable resident in its care.
“If there can be anything constructive to come from this, we hope that it will be that anyone who has a legal responsibility for fire safety in a building – whether as a landlord, property manager, care home provider or any other setting – takes note and makes sure they are complying with the law.
“I would like to thank my fire investigators, fire safety inspectors and the Brigade’s legal team which has worked tirelessly on this harrowing case for more than five years.”
BUPA was told Manley Court care home needed improvement in the latest inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in July last year.
Safety and leadership were the two main problem areas, inspectors found. The inspection was launched after concerns were raised to the regulator.