NHS Trust fined £1million for safety offence

Mon, 24 Jul 2017

Adam Farrer represented the prosecution in a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive against the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust. On 19th July 2017 HHJ Heath fined the Trust £1 million plus costs and compensation for funeral expenses, arising from a fatal accident at Pilgrim Hospital involving a 53-year-old patient. The Trust was convicted of an offence contrary to section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following a 3-week trial at Lincoln Crown Court. The Trust was represented by a QC and Junior from Crown Office Chambers.

On 10th April 2012 physiotherapy staff were working with the patient using an Arjo Encore Standing Aid Hoist to increase his mobility. He was secured to the Encore using a sling. To assist with the physiotherapy, the staff removed the kneepad. However, they removed it in an unsafe way by unscrewing it from the adjustable metal post. A short time later the patient collapsed and fell onto the exposed metal post. The post penetrated his rectum, causing catastrophic internal injuries resulting in his death later that day.

The Court heard evidence that staff at the Hospital, particularly the physiotherapy staff had not been trained how to use the Encore hoist, which resulted in staff devising an unsafe system of how to remove the knee pad on the hoist. The unsafe system involved staff unscrewing the knee pad from the adjustable post, thereby leaving the vertical post in place. Whereas the manufacturer’s operating instructions directed that staff should lift the knee pad complete with the attachment bracket. Staff had not seen the manufacturer’s operating instructions for the hoist. Further, there was no system of monitoring or supervision of the staff’s use of the Encore hoist.

HHJ Heath found that the unsafe system was widespread and longstanding and the danger created by leaving the vertical post exposed was and should have been obvious.

HHJ Heath found that the Trust’s culpability for the unsafe system was high. HHJ Heath found that the starting point for the financial penalty was £2.4million. However, given the state of the Trust’s finances and that a fine would affect its ability to perform its services to the public he reduced the fine to £1million.

Adam Farrer
No5 Barristers’ Chambers
22nd July 2017

Further information on the case can be found from the BBC and Lincolnshire Post.

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