Carer blamed over bath death tragedy

The inquiry took place at Glasgow Sheriff Court.
The inquiry took place at Glasgow Sheriff Court.
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A carer has been criticised over the death of a vulnerable woman who was scalded in her own bath after she was left alone with the hot water tap running.

Margaret Gilchrist, 50, died at her home in Carntyne, Glasgow, where she was cared for full-time, after suffering burns on up to 90 per cent of her body. Ms Gilchrist, who had severe learning difficulties, was registered blind and had epilepsy, was being looked after by Enable Scotland worker Mary Cameron when the incident happened on 26 September, 2013.

A fatal accident inquiry has found that Ms Gilchrist’s death it could have been avoided if the carer had not left the hot water tap running, and carried out regular checks on her.

Ms Cameron had left Ms Gilchrist in the bath for more than 30 minutes while she carried out other duties.

Sheriff Lindsay Wood said the care charity Enable did not have adequate safety measures in place in respect of the bathing of Ms Gilchrist.

In a written determination following the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Wood said: “Margaret Gilchrist should not have died in the manner she did on the evening of 26 September, 2013. She died in an accident which was preventable.

“After being put in an appropriately warm bath and having her hair washed, she was left there by Mary Cameron with the radio playing. Tragically, Mary Cameron did not ensure the hot water tap was turned off before she went downstairs to attend to various matters. As a result, the hot water continued to flow from the tap and the temperature became increasingly excessive, as the TMV [thermostatic mixing valve, designed to control temperatures] did not function properly. Consequently, Margaret was scalded by the hot water and thereafter died.”

In a statement, the family of Margaret Gilchrist said: “The sheriff has addressed the main factors, given the limitations of the fatal accident inquiry, and there is not a lot more he could have said.”

A spokeswoman for Enable Scotland said: “The thoughts of Enable Scotland are with Margaret Gilchrist, who was a much loved lady.

“The inquiry identified an area of the working system, which at the time of the incident, could be improved upon; and acknowledged that Enable Scotland took prompt action at that time to address it. We will now further reflect on the full findings.”

A spokesperson for trade union Unison said: “This has been an incredibly distressing case and our thoughts remain with Margaret’s family.

“While Sheriff Wood is clear this was a tragic accident, the report states that failure to have a sufficiently detailed risk assessment in place was a contributing factor in Margaret’s death. It also highlights that the care provider, Enable, has since addressed this and changes have been made.

“It is vital that all care providers have sufficient risk assessments in place to ensure the health and safety of service users and the staff who care for them. We hope lessons will be learned … to ensure this never happens again.”