London Fire Brigade

Croydon care home slapped with £70,000 fines

28 May 2014

A Croydon care home has been hit with fines and costs totalling nearly £70,000 for putting its elderly residents at risk of fire following a successful prosecution by London Fire Brigade.

The case comes just one week after the Brigade released figures showing that there were 10 fires a week in the capital’s care homes and that a third of the people who died in accidental fires in London last year were receiving care services.

Morven Healthcare Ltd, which runs Morven House on Uplands Road in Kenley, admitted breaking fire safety laws  and pleaded guilty to five offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order  at Croydon Crown Court on Tuesday 28 May.

The Brigade’s fire safety inspecting officers visited Morven House after concerns were raised about the home by health and social care watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

When they visited the home in February last year, which at the time housed 17 residents, including elderly people with dementia and disabilities, the Brigade’s inspectors immediately found  a number of major fire safety failings.

The most serious related to blocked fire escape routes on the ground floor which would have seriously hampered any attempt to evacuate residents safely in the event of a fire. The property was undergoing building work at the time and the front door of the home had been boarded up, while an alternative fire exit was entirely blocked with bricks and cement, leaving the only escape route through the lounge door at the back of the home.

Elsewhere, on the home’s second floor another fire exit – an external staircase – was completely inaccessible because of scaffolding and unsuitable for use by residents because it was so steep. Another external staircase on the first floor was also blocked by scaffolding.

Other fire safety failings discovered by the Brigade’s inspectors included the failure to keep an up to date fire risk assessment, the lack of any emergency plan in the event of a fire and an inadequate fire detection system.

Speaking after the sentencing London Fire Brigade’s Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter said:

“Protecting London’s most vulnerable residents is our priority. Families entrust the care of their loved ones to places such as this and to find people being put at risk from fire in places where they should be safe in this way is truly shocking. 

“Building owners have a clear responsibility under fire safety laws to ensure that people living in their premises are safe from the risk of fire and if we find people are ignoring those responsibilities we won’t hesitate to prosecute. The sentence handed down in this case should serve as a stark warning that the courts take these matters just as seriously as we do.”

In addition to fines totalling £45,000, Morven Healthcare Ltd were also ordered to pay full court costs of £23,488.

The prosecution also follows a social care summit staged by the Brigade for fire and health care professionals which threw the spotlight onto the safety of care homes and those receiving care services in the capital.