May 22 2013 Latest news:
Friday, March 8, 2013
WEST Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been prosecuted for safety failings after a vulnerable patient was seriously injured in a fall from an unrestricted first floor hospital window.
The patient, who does not wish to be named, suffered a broken vertebra and a punctured lung in the incident at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on 30 September 2011.
She remains in pain, is unable to work and may require further spinal surgery.
Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that the patient had been admitted to the hospital and transferred to a ward two days prior to the incident.
At approximately 6am on 30 September, and in an apparent state of confusion, she used a chair by a bay window to climb up, fully open the window and climb out in a bid to escape.
She fell almost three metres to bushes below. These partly cushioned her fall, but she was still seriously injured and had to be transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for surgery on her spine.
She spent 13 days here before being discharged home to her parents care.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought today’s prosecution, proved that the Hospital’s arrangements for managing the risk of patients falling from windows were inadequate.
HSE found there was no window restrictor fitted to the window she fell from, and a survey carried out by the Trust after the incident highlighted a number of issues with restrictors elsewhere. These included restrictors on windows in children’s ward that although in place, weren’t tamperproof.
Guidance has been in place since 1989 stating that windows in hospitals where there are vulnerable patients should be restricted to a maximum opening of just ten centimetres to prevent falls.
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, of Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,420 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Nicola Jaynes said: “This incident was entirely preventable. Had a suitable window restrictor been provided, as it should have been by the Hospital Trust, she would not have been able to open the window wide enough to fall out.
“Fitting window restrictors is a simple, inexpensive job that is proven to save lives. Falls from unrestricted or inadequately restricted windows are not uncommon in the healthcare sector, and sadly there have been at least a dozen fatalities in recent years.
“Where there is any risk of vulnerable people falling from windows in a healthcare setting, it is vital that measures are taken to restrict the window opening to no further than 10cms.”
A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: “Following this incident, we undertook immediate action to fit window restrictors to every hospital window. We also commissioned a detailed investigation of the incident, the recommendations of which have resulted in changes in our systems in order to prevent future, similar incidents.
“We cooperated fully with the Health and Safety Executive in its investigation and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity in respect of the prosecution.
“We sincerely apologise to the patient concerned.
“Ensuring that people using the hospital site are safe is our highest priority and we remain committed to fulfilling all of our obligations in respect of patient, staff and visitor safety.”