Staff error blamed for scalding of woman, 90

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The Independent Online
HUMAN ERROR was blamed for the scalding of a 90-year-old woman in a bath of boiling water, an investigation found yesterday.

John White, director of the Greytree Trust, which runs Sydney House in Whitechapel, east London, where Rachel Blitz lived, said the 'horrendous' accident was not caused by gross neglect, nor lack of care.

After detailed interviews with all staff involved and after consulting police investigating the incident, Mr White said he had no doubt that the burns were due to a 'tragic' mistake 'made by two experienced, trained and informed staff. This was no more than an horrendous accident caused by human error on behalf of two dedicated staff'.

The two staff members, Angela Uche Atuegwa and Anne Kelly, were suspended without pay after the incident. Mr White said they were in 'extreme states of shock' and were receiving counselling. Changes in procedure have now been made and extra equipment has been installed.

Police were called to investigate the incident on Tuesday, which left Miss Blitz, who suffers from senile dementia, with 40 per cent burns. She is in a stable condition at the Royal London Hospital.

Mr White said the two staff decided to give Miss Blitz a bath after she became incontinent and they put on protective plastic surgical gloves. She was lowered into the water in a hoist but there was no evidence of her protesting or complaining about the water temperature. It was only when her skin began to flake that they realised anything was wrong. She was removed from the bath and an ambulance called.