Hospital Trust fined following dementia death

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been prosecuted after an elderly woman suffering from dementia was found dead while on a specialist ward at a hospital under its care.

Mrs Joan Darnell, 78, a dementia sufferer, had been admitted to the Julian Hospital's Blickling Ward, a specialist ward for patients with the condition, in September of 2014. The following month, she was reported as missing and was discovered in one of the ward's bathrooms, face-down in the bath water.

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Following the tragic death, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation which discovered that the Trust had failed to put in place the necessary policies or procedures for managing the safety of all patients. A risk assessment that was appropriate for the situation had not been carried out and adequate systems to ensure that patients on the ward were effectively monitored was not in place, the HSE investigation found.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at Norwich Crown Court and was fined £366,000 plus costs of £12,888.48.

HSE's Anthony Brookes said: “This was a tragic and preventable death. Had the trust put in place the correct procedures for the staff to manage the risks to vulnerable patients Mrs Darnell may still be alive. It is vital that patients’ needs are taking into consideration and Hospital Trust’s carry out appropriate risk assessments. They need to make sure the correct work systems are put in place to ensure they are managed but also appropriately monitored.”