Support worker ‘ashamed and full of regret’ after choking death at Leeds care centre

Alison Evers. Pic: Ross Parry
Alison Evers. Pic: Ross Parry

A disabled woman died after choking on a sweet given to her by one of her carers at a support centre in Leeds, a court heard.

The parents of 34-year-old Alison Evers took the heartbreaking decision to switch off her life support machine four days after she suffered devastating brain injuries.

Picture shows Tracey Gilboy who worked as a senior support worker at the Horsforth Fulfilling Lives Centre in Leeds. See Ross Parry copy RPYCHOKE. where Alison Dawn Evers who suffered from severe learning difficulties choked on an American Hard Gum and later died in Hospital despite the centre knowing her food had to be finely chopped or liquidised. Andrew McCaren/Rossparry.co.uk

Picture shows Tracey Gilboy who worked as a senior support worker at the Horsforth Fulfilling Lives Centre in Leeds. See Ross Parry copy RPYCHOKE. where Alison Dawn Evers who suffered from severe learning difficulties choked on an American Hard Gum and later died in Hospital despite the centre knowing her food had to be finely chopped or liquidised. Andrew McCaren/Rossparry.co.uk

Tracey Gilboy, 57, a senior support worker at the council-run centre, was given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety Act.

Leeds Crown Court heard Gilboy brought in a packet of American hard gums to hand out to people at the centre as it was her last day before going on sick leave to have a hip operation.

The court heard Miss Evers had Cri du Chat Syndrome, a condition which left her with severe physical and mental disabilities.

Miss Evers should not have been given one of the sweets as she had difficulties chewing.

It is something that the defendant is ashamed of and most bitterly regrets.”

Tom Gent, mitigating

The incident happened at the Fulfilling Lives centre, Horsforth, on April 20, 2012.

Craig Hassall, prosecuting, said Gilboy gave the sweets to a colleague to hand around others.

Gilboy was aware that it was not safe to give everyone a sweet. Two people were not given one of the gums but one was handed to Miss Evers.

She quickly began choking and attempts to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on her failed.

Pictured - Collect of Alison with mum Elizabeth while on a trip to Spain. See Ross Parry copy RPYCHOKE. An American gum that caused a severely disabled woman to choke and die was 
supplied by a senior support worker, an inquest heard.
Alison Evers, 34, had trouble chewing and could only swallow small pieces of food, but she was still handed one of the hard sweets by care worker Tracey Gilboy.This led to the petite woman having trouble breathing, turning blue and then going into cardiac arrest. Four days later she died in hospital.

Pictured - Collect of Alison with mum Elizabeth while on a trip to Spain. See Ross Parry copy RPYCHOKE. An American gum that caused a severely disabled woman to choke and die was supplied by a senior support worker, an inquest heard. Alison Evers, 34, had trouble chewing and could only swallow small pieces of food, but she was still handed one of the hard sweets by care worker Tracey Gilboy.This led to the petite woman having trouble breathing, turning blue and then going into cardiac arrest. Four days later she died in hospital.

An ambulance was called and the sweet was dislodged by a paramedic. Miss Evers suffered serious brain injuries due to lack of oxygen.

Her parents, David and Jean, took the decision to withdraw her life support at Leeds General Infirmary after friends, family and staff at the centre had a chance to say goodbye to her.

Gilboy, of Long Row, Horsforth, pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of a person at work.

Tom Gent, mitigating, said Gilboy was aware of Miss Evers’s individual support plan and her problems with chewing.

Mr Gent said Gilboy accepted that she should have distributed the sweets herself.

The barrister said: “It is something that the defendant is ashamed of and most bitterly regrets.”

Gilboy has been diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of what had happened.

Gilboy was given an 80 day prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was told she must take part in 15-day activity requirement.

Following an inquest held in February last year into the death, Miss Evers’ parents, David and Jean, said: “We feel totally let down.

“Alison’s death was totally avoidable because the staff were all aware of her condition and the support she needed.

“We are looking for the council to learn lessons from this and to ensure more staff are trained in first aid.”

Recording a narrative verdict, assistant coroner Jan Alam concluded that the death was contributed to by the negligence of Leeds City Council.

She said she would write a letter to the council calling for more staff to be trained in first aid.

A spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “This was a tragic incident and our thoughts and sympathies are with Alison’s family.

“We have noted the findings of the assistant coroner and since this incident occurred in 2012, all staff have now undertaken first aid training courses.

“The safety of all those using our services is always our primary concern.”

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