Hospital faces £350,000 legal bill after failing to protect patients from Legionnaires'

Echo: Hospital faces £350,000 legal bill after failing to protect patients from Legionnaires' Hospital faces £350,000 legal bill after failing to protect patients from Legionnaires'

BASILDON hospital has been hit with a £350,000 legal bill after admitting failing to protect patients' against the deadly Legionnaires' disease.

Basildon Hospital admitted failing to protect patients and visitors between 2006 and 2007, after James Compton, 74, and Raymond Cackett, 54, died after contracting Legionnaires' disease. Six others were infected by the chronic legionella outbreak.

Bosses also pleaded guilty to a similar count after a patient, who was on the hospital's elderly ward, was injured after falling five metres from an unrestricted window.

Sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, judge David Turner said: "These are failures of very different kinds but each is in its own way serious."

He ordered the hospital - one of 14 named by NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh's report into abnormally high death rates - to pay a fine of £100,000 for the Legionnaires' offence and £75,000 for the fall.

The trust must also pay the prosecution's legal costs of £175,000.

The judge added: "The very phrase Legionnaires' disease is enough to strike a chord of concern for any of us staying in hospital anywhere in this country or who have elderly relatives staying in hospital.

"Managing and controlling these bacteria is a huge, costly and complicated challenge for hospitals everywhere. Their failure was not of ignorance, lack of concern or reckless disregard for safety.

"The extent of their shortcomings need to be seen against the complexity of the challenge they faced and the number of people through their doors."

Mr Compton, from Billericay, died in 2007 and Mr Cackett, 54, from South Ockendon, died in 2010 after contracting the disease at the hospital.

Six other patients - Egbert Van Nuil, Lyn Kilshaw, Roy Leech, Joyce Limbert, Francis Nutt and Verona Hughes - were infected. The court heard some of them "nearly died" from the disease.

Opening the case, prosecutor Pascal Bates said the hospital had been battling the disease - a serious lung infection caused by legionella bacteria which is common in water systems - for up to 15 years.

But despite a previous prosecution following the 2002 death of George Bate, 77, from Legionnaires', managers took insufficient steps to protect the public, the court heard.

Shower heads and thermastatic valves were not properly cleaned, the budget to chemically kill the bacteria was cut and attempts to tackle the disease by "super heating" hot pipes may have backfired by warming cold pipes, causing the bacteria to proliferate.

Mr Bates said: "This wasn't a situation where for a brief period of time the hospital followed advice from a particular consultant which later turned out to be wrong. This was a lengthy period of time during which the hospital fell short of its responsibilities and failed its patients."

Iain Daniels, mitigating, said the trust apologised for the deaths and for the injuries suffered by the elderly woman. He said lessons had been learned and steps taken to protect patients in future.

Speaking afterwards, Health and Safety Executive inspector Susan Matthews said: "Healthcare providers, like all organisations, have a legal duty to control risks by properly maintaining hot and cold water systems.

"The trust received numerous warnings from regulators and consultants brought in to give the hospital advice and support, but these were not fully heeded."

Andrea Gordon, director of operations (regions) of the Care Quality Commission, said Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's failures were not acceptable but progress had been made.

"We will continue to monitor the trust, including further unannounced inspections, and will not hesitate to take action where we find standards have fallen short of what people should be able to expect," she added.

Outside court, hospital chief executive Clare Panniker apologised to the relatives of those who suffered.

Echo: Basildon Hospital's chief executive Clare Panniker

She said: "We need to ensure our patients are cared for in a safe environment where they do not come to any harm.

"Tackling and managing known risks to hospital environments such as legionella is part of this and I am confident, as are our health partners and the Health and Safety Executive, that we are doing this.

"We continue to invest significantly in upgrading and managing our water systems to minimise the risks of any patients contracting Legionnaires' disease in the future."

Comments (7)

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1:42pm Wed 4 Sep 13

Vange Resident says...

Sack the heads of each dept, Inc Finance, Nursing, HR & the board of directors, get the £72k golden hand shake Alan Whittle got for failing the whole of the community back and make those in charge redundant, no pay off.

Don’t make the people of Essex suffer for the greed and poor management of those who clearly should not be in charge.
Sack the heads of each dept, Inc Finance, Nursing, HR & the board of directors, get the £72k golden hand shake Alan Whittle got for failing the whole of the community back and make those in charge redundant, no pay off. Don’t make the people of Essex suffer for the greed and poor management of those who clearly should not be in charge. Vange Resident

1:51pm Wed 4 Sep 13

GrumpyofLeigh says...

In the meantime, the lawyers have grown fatter and the hospital has less money on which to operate on a day-to-day basis - that'll help patients. Fines such as this and other penalties achieve nothing unless someone catches it in their own wallet rather than the Trust's.
In the meantime, the lawyers have grown fatter and the hospital has less money on which to operate on a day-to-day basis - that'll help patients. Fines such as this and other penalties achieve nothing unless someone catches it in their own wallet rather than the Trust's. GrumpyofLeigh

2:13pm Wed 4 Sep 13

Biker One says...

GrumpyofLeigh wrote:
In the meantime, the lawyers have grown fatter and the hospital has less money on which to operate on a day-to-day basis - that'll help patients. Fines such as this and other penalties achieve nothing unless someone catches it in their own wallet rather than the Trust's.
Was just about to say the same but you beat me to it!

£350,000 less to spend on patient care, not to mention the extra staff the hospital was intending to recruit. Well if it was broke before it's well and truly been busted now.
[quote][p][bold]GrumpyofLeigh[/bold] wrote: In the meantime, the lawyers have grown fatter and the hospital has less money on which to operate on a day-to-day basis - that'll help patients. Fines such as this and other penalties achieve nothing unless someone catches it in their own wallet rather than the Trust's.[/p][/quote]Was just about to say the same but you beat me to it! £350,000 less to spend on patient care, not to mention the extra staff the hospital was intending to recruit. Well if it was broke before it's well and truly been busted now. Biker One

2:28pm Wed 4 Sep 13

emcee says...

£350,000 is small change to the hospital and I think the hospital got off very, very lightly. Not only should the fine have been higher but hospital boss's heads, and those of other responsible parties, should have rolled. The days of wrapping executives and managers in cotton wool needs to stop. They get paid highly for the extra responsibility yet do not take any of it when things fail.
£350,000 is small change to the hospital and I think the hospital got off very, very lightly. Not only should the fine have been higher but hospital boss's heads, and those of other responsible parties, should have rolled. The days of wrapping executives and managers in cotton wool needs to stop. They get paid highly for the extra responsibility yet do not take any of it when things fail. emcee

2:33pm Wed 4 Sep 13

Biker One says...

emcee wrote:
£350,000 is small change to the hospital and I think the hospital got off very, very lightly. Not only should the fine have been higher but hospital boss's heads, and those of other responsible parties, should have rolled. The days of wrapping executives and managers in cotton wool needs to stop. They get paid highly for the extra responsibility yet do not take any of it when things fail.
Are you for real?
[quote][p][bold]emcee[/bold] wrote: £350,000 is small change to the hospital and I think the hospital got off very, very lightly. Not only should the fine have been higher but hospital boss's heads, and those of other responsible parties, should have rolled. The days of wrapping executives and managers in cotton wool needs to stop. They get paid highly for the extra responsibility yet do not take any of it when things fail.[/p][/quote]Are you for real? Biker One

2:34pm Wed 4 Sep 13

Vange Resident says...

The people in the community will suffer not the people who caused this, they will continue to draw a large salary for little work and sit at there desks smiling because they got away with it. The Heads of the dept are ultimately responsible for any failings and should be held responsible; if your failings are so bad that people lost there lives then you need to go!

We need conscientious hard word people trusted with our lives not those who just take the money and go home each night, waiting for the day they get there golden handshakes!
The people in the community will suffer not the people who caused this, they will continue to draw a large salary for little work and sit at there desks smiling because they got away with it. The Heads of the dept are ultimately responsible for any failings and should be held responsible; if your failings are so bad that people lost there lives then you need to go! We need conscientious hard word people trusted with our lives not those who just take the money and go home each night, waiting for the day they get there golden handshakes! Vange Resident

4:38pm Wed 4 Sep 13

Discouraged says...

Alan Whittle "£72,00 very nice thankyou" should have been the one apologizing instead of Clare Panniker.
Alan Whittle "£72,00 very nice thankyou" should have been the one apologizing instead of Clare Panniker. Discouraged

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