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Mid Staffs faces criminal case

Published on 30/08/13 at 08:38am
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The fall-out from the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust scandal has continued with the news that it is to face criminal prosecution from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It was censured earlier this year when it emerged that patients at Stafford Hospital were subjected to ‘appalling and unnecessary suffering’ there, according to an official report.

Robert Francis QC said patients were ‘routinely neglected’, with hundreds dying between 2005 and 2008, many of whom were not cleaned properly or given medicines, food and drink.

HSE has now singled out the death of one patient, Gillian Astbury, who died on 11 April 2007, of diabetic ketoacidosis, when she was an in-patient at the hospital.

The immediate cause of death was the failure to administer insulin to a known diabetic and the HSE believes it has enough information to justify taking the matter to court.

Peter Galsworthy, HSE head of operations in the West Midlands, said: “We have concluded our investigation into the death of Gillian Astbury at Stafford Hospital and have decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings in this case.”

The Trust - which NHS regulator Monitor announced in April was to go into administration - will be charged by HSE under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

This legislation states that every employer has a duty to ensure “so far as is reasonably practicable” that people who may be affected by the way an undertaking operates are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

“Our case alleges that the Trust failed to devise, implement or properly manage structured and effective systems of communication for sharing patient information, including in relation to shift handovers and record-keeping,” the HSE explained in a statement.

The first hearing in the case is due to take place at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on 9 October.

The Trust’s chief executive Maggie Oldham has apologised for the ‘appalling care’ Gillian Astbury received.

Professor Don Berwick’s report into NHS patient care earlier this month warned that criminal sanctions against the NHS “should be extremely rare, and should function primarily as a deterrent to wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment”.

However, health minister Norman Lamb said in July that directors responsible for failures in care such as those at Mid Staffs should face prosecution.

In July health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that 11 hospitals in England were to be put into ‘special measures’ and are to be put under the microscope next year by the new chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards.

Adam Hill

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