The organisation responsible for Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital has today (Wednesday) been fined £1 million and ordered to pay £160,000 prosecution costs following the death of a patient at the site.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) was found guilty by a jury following a trial earlier this year of failing to discharge a duty of care in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act following the death of John Biggadike in April 2010.
I am satisfied that the staff using the hoist were not properly trained in its use. Employees were having to work out for themselves how to use the hoist. The practise developed of the knee pad being removed. The danger it presented was glaringly obvious.
The Trust was also ordered to pay £3,800 compensation to Mr Biggadike’s brother Keith to cover the costs of his funeral.
Mr Biggadike was impaled by a metal post that formed part of the hoist and suffered catastrophic internal injuries which resulted in his death. The post had been left exposed after staff removed a knee pad contrary to the safe way of operating the equipment.
Mr Biggadike, who lived in Spalding, was being treated for cirrhosis of the liver when he died as a result of the incident on Ward 8a at the Pilgrim Hospital.
Judge Michael Heath, passing sentence at Lincoln Crown Court, said: “I am satisfied that the staff using the hoist were not properly trained in its use. Employees were having to work out for themselves how to use the hoist.
“The practise developed of the knee pad being removed. The danger it presented was glaringly obvious.”
The Judge ordered that the fine and costs should be paid at £250,000 a year because of the Trust’s financial position.
Judge Heath said he recognised that the Trust had financial problems and had significantly reduced the fine to reflect that.
He said: “I have been very much aware that every pound that I impose by way of a fine is a pound less that can be spent on patient care.”
During a three-week trial the jury heard that staff were not adequately trained in the use of the hoist and instead devised their own system of operating it which was contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Adam Farrer, prosecuting, said “The system of training and supervision prior to Mr Biggadike’s death was shambolic.
“The failings were very basic in terms of training and long-standing.
“The prosecution do not blame individuals. The prosecution say the Trust failed to train them properly and point out the obvious risks.
“That led to the staff devising their own way of using the machine. It was not intended by the manufacturer that the machine was used in that way.”
The Trust argued in its defence during the trial that Mr Biggadike’s death was not caused by failings in training but by the manufacturer for design faults and failure to provide an adequate operating manual.
Michael Spencer QC, in mitigation, said the Trust has since taken steps to rectify the issues which arose from the fatality.
He said: “We submit the Trust has a good health and safety record and has good health and safety procedures in place.”
Mr Spencer said the Trust had a deficit of £56.8 million on its 2016-17 accounts and at March 31 this year had an overall deficit of £127 million which has since increased to £139 million.
In a statement released following the case, ULHT director of finance Karen Brown said: “We are disappointed by the outcome of this court case and the settlement to the treasury but fully accept the verdict.
“We felt that it was important to defend this case, not least because of the history of two other similar incidents involving this piece of equipment which we had not been aware of at the time of Mr Biggadike’s tragic death.
“We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Biggadike”