HSE investigation revealed lack of risk assessment…
A healthcare provider in the UK has been fined £100,000 after an 85-year-old patient died at a private hospital in High Wycombe.
The HSE decided to prosecute the healthcare provider after their investigation uncovered some safety failings that might have prevented the death of the elderly man specifically citing the lack of any kind of adequate risk assessment.
Amersham Crown Court heard that the man who died was initially admitted to hospital on 10 February 2009 for a routine operation – the private room in which the man was staying was on the first floor and had patio style doors that opened onto a small balcony. The man reported symptoms of disorientation, dizziness and confusion three days after the operation and the next evening his body was found in the grounds of the hospital below the balcony of the room in which he was staying. It was estimated that he fell three and half metres and suffered a fractured vertebra as a result of the impact caused by the fall. He was immediately transported to a hospital that could provide him with emergency care but he died two days later.
The HSE said that the hospital had failed to adequately assess the risks associated with patients falling from the balconies of private rooms. As well as this the hospital also failed to take any kind of control measures to prevent these potentially fatal incidents occurring.
The healthcare company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a fine of £100,000 was imposed on them in addition to costs of £29,447.
HSE Inspector Robert Meardon spoke after the hearing:
“This case graphically illustrates that hospitals need to ensure that vulnerable patients in their care are not allowed to be put at unnecessary risk. This patient’s accident was entirely avoidable.
“The hospital had not assessed the risk of someone falling off their balcony in private rooms, and had no system in place to ensure that the risks of a fall were adequately controlled. A possible control would have been to have locks on the balcony doors, with keys under the supervision of medical staff.
“However the man was left alone, and he was able to get onto the balcony and fall several metres to the ground below.
“There is a well-known accident history in the care sector, of vulnerable people falling from window openings and balconies, which is why there is no excuse for duty holders to fail to manage these risks. It is essential that effective assessment of the risks are undertaken in order to ensure the necessary preventive measures are put in place.”
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