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“Unnecessary human tragedy" – NHS faces landmark fine over patient deaths

Last week an NHS trust faced a landmark fine of £2 million following the death of two patients whilst they were in their care, the highest financial penalty imposed against an NHS trust for offences of this type. Southern Health pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws and acknowledged that the deaths were preventable. The judgment followed a six year investigation where the trust was subject to scrutiny from numerous professional bodies including the Coroner’s Office and the General Medical Council after the deaths of the patients in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

According to the Guardian, Teresa Colvin, 45, was found unconscious in April 2012 at an adult mental health hospital that she had been admitted to only two days previously. Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, who was autistic, suffered an epileptic seizure and subsequently drowned in a bath whilst an inpatient at an NHS care unit in July 2013. Following the death of Mr Sparrowhawk, the trust was the subject of an investigation that led to the discovery that they had failed to investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 patients with learning disability or mental health issues over the preceding four years, the Guardian reports. At last week’s hearing at Oxford Crown Court the chief executive of Southern Health apologised unreservedly for the deaths and said they had acted as a catalyst for change.

The extent of the fine imposed by the judge highlights the severity of how the courts are viewing patient’s deaths that could have been prevented whilst they were under the care of medical professionals. Especially for those patient’s who are at their most vulnerable. The specialist medical negligence solicitors at JMW have handled several similar cases involving patients who have lost their lives due to appalling failures at other NHS trusts and have seen first-hand the devastation these incidents cause.  The role of JMW’s team is to investigate the circumstances of any death under NHS care that a family feels was avoidable and if, appropriate, bring a legal case on their behalf. 

Although any amount of financial settlement would not result in bringing back a loved one, it does offer solace to the victim’s families that courts are taking these events incredibly seriously and the medical professionals will be held accountable for their failings. Such tough penalties also help to ensure lessons are learned so that other patients are protected from harm and this too can bring comfort to bereaved families.

If you believe a loved one has passed away as a result of failings in their care from health professionals, our team at JMW can help establish if you are entitled to make a claim. Please call us today on 0345 872 6666 to speak to one of our solicitors.

 

 

 

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