Stafford Crown Court has fined the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust for health and safety failings that resulted in four avoidable deaths in hospital.
Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into four fatalities at the Stafford Hospital – three of them following a patient fall in the hospital, and the fourth attributable to a patient being administered drugs she was known to be allergic to – charges were brought against the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust last year.
At Stafford Magistrates´ Court in November, the NHS Trust pleaded guilty to “very significant failings” in the care provided for the four patients and magistrates referred the case to Stafford Crown Court for sentencing. At the sentencing hearing, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave was told that three of the charges related to the lack of a proper risk assessment that would have identified measures to prevent falls.
The judge – who, in 2007, fined the NHS Trust £200,000 for health and safety failings related to the death of Gillian Astbury – was read extracts from relatives´ victim statements. Judge Haddon-Cove said that the failings responsible for the avoidable deaths in hospital could be blamed on the lack of a robust management system for safeguarding patients.
Sentencing the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust to a £500,000 fine, the judge said: “I hope today brings some closure and finally draws a line under the past, and that Stafford and Cannock Hospitals can open a new and bright chapter and become the hospitals that their dedicated staff and local communities can once again be proud of.”
The fine for the avoidable deaths in hospital will have to be paid by the Secretary of State for Health as the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has been closed own following an unprecedented number of deaths in the hospitals it was responsible for. The Secretary of State for Health will also have to pay the £35,517 costs incurred by the Health and Safety Executive during the investigation of the fatalities.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing hearing´s conclusion, Wayne Owen – one of the inspectors involved in the Health and Safety Executive´s investigation – issued a statement on behalf of the victims´ families. Mr Owen said: “The families acknowledge the NHS Trust´s unreserved apology. The conclusion of this case goes some way towards bringing the closure that they all need”.