Not a good story from Stafford Crown Court this week. Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust fined £333,333.00 plus £130,000 costs following patients falling, leading to being fatally injured. At first reading, this sounds very troubling. And of course it’s serious. It’s the Hospital Trust which serves most of Montgomeryshire, so it’s a big issue for me. I’ve tried to find out a bit more about it. No getting away from it not being good, but it should be considered in perspective.
Patients do sometimes fall in every hospital, and sometimes these falls result in death. I’m told that there are around 200,000 falls in NHS hospitals every year, with around 250 deaths. And even with the very best ‘Gold Standard’ management, around two thirds of these deaths are unavoidable. Also told that the Shrewsbury and Telford Trust are no worse than other hospitals. Even so, the Health and Safety Executive decided to prosecute - maybe because of the shocking experiences of what happened in South Staffs a few years ago. So it’s a matter of real interest to me.
I’m told that in cases of this sort, the judge is obliged to follow sentencing guidelines, which indicates that the fine should have been between £1.5 million and £2.9 million. For several reasons, and taking account of what he considered the Trust’s sincere interest in safe care and transparency, and culture of openness and cooperation, and impact on services of a higher fine, he reduced the fine to £333,333.00. In general the judge found that the falls were a result of individual lapses rather than any systemic failure.
I’m sure we will learn more about this issue over the next few days/weeks. We need to know as much as possible about what has happened. Crucial if we are to have full confidence for the future. On a related issue, I do think the NHS is working under great pressures and is struggling to cope with an the increasing workload. Personally, I do think there will have to be more funding for healthcare and social care over the next few years.