The death of a vulnerable person choking to death on fish and chips has hit the headlines last week. This is a convenient reminder to you of the importance of timely risk assessment and care planning. The case focussed on an elderly person who was given a fish and chip meal to eat by herself, when her recent transfer notes specifically identified the need for her to eat puréed food due to swallowing difficulties, and that this should be fully supervised by staff.
However, the staff on duty at the time were unaware of the person’s dietary needs. This was because no-one had carried out a risk assessment following her transfer a couple of weeks earlier and consequently there was no care plan either. Read on to find out how to write effective risk assessments to ensure the safety of your service users.
Avoid a £170,000 Fine – Always Do Your Risk Assessment
The Health and Safety (HSE) were called in to investigate the offence and found serious shortcomings in the assessment and record keeping of the person, which resulted in her death and which could have been prevented. As such, the HSE fined the organisation £125,000 and ordered them to pay costs of £45,000.
The family have taken the opportunity to praise the large fine and subsequent poor publicity, with the hope that this will make sure it does not happen in other homes in the future.
5 Steps to Effective Risk Assessments
This is not just a care home issue. It is vitally important that whenever anyone is accepted into your service you must make sure of the following:
- You have the most up-to-date information about the health and wellbeing of the person. Although this should already be provided, if this hasn’t been given to you, you must go and find this information out. A person’s life could depend on it.
- You should carry out a risk assessment on admission to your service – the person cannot be cared for in a safe manner without this.
- Once your risk assessment has been completed, your service / care plan should be written to identify the care required and any specific ways your staff need to care for the person to reduce any of the risks identified.
- You must make sure your staff are fully aware of the way in which they should care for the service user, particularly if there are any unusual care requirements such as with this case. Additional training or instruction may be required in some instances.
- You must review the care and risk assessment on a regular basis to ensure the care provided still meets the needs of the person.