Mid Staffs faces prosecution over patient death
Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust is to be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive, following the death of a patient in April 2007.
Gillian Astbury, who suffered with dementia, died after nurses failed to ensure she received vital daily injections of insulin. She slipped into a diabetic coma and died.
The HSE said the trust would be charged with breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, but added that no individual nurses would face prosecution due to “insufficient evidence under health and safety laws.”
When Ms Astbury was admitted to the hospital, some nurses at the trust were not informed she had diabetes and others claimed they were too busy to check her notes.
Despite her high blood glucose levels, no action was taken by nursing staff. The jury at the inquest into her death concluded there was a “gross failure to provide basic care”.
Peter Galsworthy, head of operations for the HSE 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.”
“Gillian Astbury 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 patient.
“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,” he said.
However, the HSE said there was “insufficient evidence” to bring prosecutions against individual staff under health and safety laws.
The Crown Prosecution Service has previously ruled there was insufficient evidence to support manslaughter charges against any individuals.
Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust is due to appear at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on 9 October.
During the Mid Staffordshire public inquiry the HSE admitted its practice was to ignore the law in relation to investigating deaths as a result of “clinical decisions about diagnosis or treatment”, due to a lack of resources.
It has since pointed out that it does investigate and prosecute some “exceptional cases” of this type.
In his public inquiry report Robert Francis QC described the situation as a “regulatory gap” and recommended the Care Quality Commission be given the power to prosecute trusts.
The government has said it will ensure sufficient resources are made available to the HSE.
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