Last reviewed 12 January 2022

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has drawn attention to a record fine imposed on a care home business, run by private health and care provider BUPA, for fire safety failings after the death of a care home resident.

The LFB brought the prosecution against BUPA under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order after it was called to a blaze at the Manley Court care home in Brockley in March 2016.

A 69-year-old wheelchair user at the home died in a fire whilst smoking unsupervised in a shelter in the garden of the home.

BUPA Care Services (ANS) Ltd has since been fined £937,500 for fire safety failings and ordered to pay £104,000 prosecution costs at Southwark Crown Court.

An investigation found that, although a smoking risk assessment had been carried out for Mr Skyers, it did not assess his use of emollient creams which can be flammable if allowed to build up on skin, clothing or bedding.

Additionally, apparent burn marks indicative of previous incidents were found on Mr Skyers’ clothing after his death, something which care home staff said they had not been aware of. They said that if they had been, they would have ensured more regular checks were made when he was smoking.

BUPA pleaded guilty to contravening Article 11 (1) of the Order which relates to the management of fire safety measures.

It accepted that it had failed to: ensure staff understood the risks from the use of emollient creams; to warn residents using paraffin-based products not to smoke, or, require precautions to be taken such as the use of a smock or apron; and had failed to instruct staff not to leave a resident using paraffin-based products smoking unsupervised.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Paul Jennings, said: “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.”