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Nursing home fined for elderly man's fatal fall

Truro Crown court has heard that an elderly man with dementia was able to wander into another resident's room at his nursing home and fall to his death from a window. Reginald Gibbings, 89, fell 3.6 metres from the room in July 2008.

The court was told that Mr Gibbings had been admitted to the secure unit for elderly and mentally ill people at the home after his wife suffered a stroke at their home.

He did not settle well at the home, and repeatedly stated he wanted to leave and tried to get out by forcing the secure garden gate. On the day of the fall, Mr Gibbings entered a bedroom on the ground floor which had a restrictor fitted to prevent the window opening fully. The restrictor was defeated, either by Mr Gibbings or someone else, allowing the window to open fully. Although on a ground floor, the home is built into a banked area and the sloping gardens created a large drop beneath the window.

Mr Gibbings either fell through the window or fell trying to climb out it. He suffered multiple fractures and died in hospital two days later.

The home was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £95,963 in costs in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). A compensation order of £2,300 towards the family's funeral costs was also made.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector, Sarah Baldwin-Jones, said:

"It is essential that nursing homes consider the type of window restrictor fitted to their windows. Homes should consider the robustness of their restrictors and how easy it would be to defeat them. They should conduct a risk assessment and implement immediate measures to ensure vulnerable residents are kept safe. Window restrictors should be regularly inspected and where defects or damage are noted, there should be a system in place for making sure that necessary action is taken".

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