Health and Safety Prosecutions of NHS Trusts and Care Providers

Despite the dismissal of the corporate manslaughter charges against Maidstone Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in January 2016, prosecutions by HSE against NHS and Social Care Providers will not be deterred.
 

Since 1 February 2016 the range of fines of up to £20m can now be imposed on organisations with an annual turnover of above £50m (far below the turnover of NHS Trusts).
 

In April 2016, Morecombe Bay Foundation Trust were fined £100,000 plus costs for failing to ensure they managed the risk of bed rails a fundamental element of patient safety.
 

In September 2016 Oaklands Country Rest Home near York was fined £1.6m where a 91 year old woman had died of severe hypothermia. The Judge said this was “an accident waiting to happen”. The owner Maria Mallaband Care Group Limited had failed in its duty of care and was guilty of systemic failures.
 

In defending such prosecutions there is a high burden of proof on Defendant Trust to prove they have taken all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of all those affected by its activities. Apart from organisational liability, individuals can of course be prosecuted under Section 37 of the Health and Safety Work Acts for their role in consenting or conniving in the commission by their organisation of a health and safety offence.
 

In February 2016, a corporate manslaughter charge was upheld and a fine of £300,000 imposed on Sherwood Rise Limited where a resident died from pneumonia brought about by debility and low body mass index. A director, Mr Yusaf Khan was sentenced to three years and two months and disqualified from being a company director for eight years. Mr Mohammad Khan, a Manager was sentenced to one year suspended and disqualified from being a company director for five years.
 

In November 2016 Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was fined £366,000 and ordered to pay costs after pleading guilty to breach of S3 (1) of HSWA 1974 when a 78 year old patient suffering from dementia was found face down in a bath full of water having been left unsupervised on the ward.
 

Apart from criminal conviction, fines and custodial sentences these incidents will lead to intervention by the Regulators and the most damaging loss is that of reputation associated with any gross management failure.
 

In the event your organisation experiences a serious incident, we can advise and support you and your senior managers in response to the investigation and steps of defence or mitigation in the event of a prosecution.
 

Contact johnsheath@brachers.co.uk or 01622 776406.

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