Hospital in court after legionella outbreak and elderly patient fall…
A NHS Foundation Trust has been fined more than £350,000 after two separate incidents revealed serious safety failings. One of the incidents saw an elderly patient fall five metres while the other related to a legionella outbreak.
Seven patients at the Basildon and Thurrock University hospitals were found to be infected with the potentially fatal legionella bacteria from the hospitals’s water system and two patients died later from the effects of Legionnaires’ disease.
The hospital was also found to have failed to adequately restrict a window on one of its upper floors when an 80-year-old patient fell almost five metres in June 2012, sustaining serious injuries including a broken back and ankle.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard that the Trust neglected to monitor their hot and cold water systems especially with regard to checking that shower heads and hoses were up to the rigorous hygiene standards expected in hospitals.
The Trust was also found to have failed to deal with the legionella outbreak – they didn’t have the necessary controls in place to prevent the spread of the bacteria, and failed to monitor the ongoing threat with enforcement action and written guidance.
Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was fined £100,000 with additonal prosecution costs of £162,000 after admitting to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 with regard to the legionella cases.
HSE inspector Susan Matthews commented on this specific charge:
“People being treated in hospitals are especially susceptible to infection. That is what makes these failings in legionella management all the more concerning.
“Not only did two families suffer the loss of their loved ones, six people suffered serious illness due to developing this potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
“Healthcare providers, like all organisations, have a legal duty to control the risks by properly maintaining hot and cold water systems.”
The Trust was also prosecuted for the window fall incident and criticised for not having either a risk assessment or window safety policy in place. The lack of restrictive measures directly contributed to the elderly lady’s fall and the Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The fine in this case amounted to £75,000 with prosecution costs of £13,000.
HSE inspector Corinne Godfrey spoke about the incident:
“Incidents such as this are wholly preventable. Had a suitable window safety policy been in place, this elderly woman, who was known to have a form of dementia, would not have been able to open the window wide enough to fall out.
“Every year vulnerable people are killed or severely injured in falls from windows in health and social care settings. Health and social care providers have a duty to ensure that they have a robust safety management system in place for windows, and that those tasked to undertake safety checks on key items such as window restrictors have had adequate training to do so.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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