Fine against mental health trust upheld by Court of Appeal after 78-year-old patient drowned in hospital bath
PUBLISHED: 11:23 14 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 14 July 2017
A bid by the region’s mental health trust to reduce the amount they were fined after a dementia patient drowned has failed at the Court of Appeal.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) admitted breaching health and safety regulations last November, after 78-year-old Joan Darnell died.
Mrs Darnell, who had dementia and bipolar disorder, had been taken from her home in Field Grange, Lowestoft, to the Julian Hospital in Bowthorpe Road, Norwich, in October 2014.
She was on the Blickling ward with 15 other elderly patients with memory problems, when despite being kept under hourly observation by staff, she was able to go into an unlocked bathroom and run a bath and drown, Norwich Crown Court heard last year.
She was found lying face down in the bath.
MORE: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS trust fined £366k after 78-year-old patient drowned in hospital bath
Judge Stephen Holt, at Norwich Crown Court, fined the trust £366,000, although the fine was reduced as the court heard that it would have to come out of the under-pressure NHS budget. The trust initially agreed to pay the fine by March this year.
However yesterday, Thursday, at the Court of Appeal, in London, lawyers for the trust said the fine should be reduced.
MORE: Woman who drowned in Norwich hospital bath died accidentally, inquest concludes
This was dismissed by Ms Justice Russell, sitting for Lord Justice Treacy and Judge Deborah Taylor QC, who upheld the fine.
After the initial case in Norwich, NSFT chief executive Michael Scott said: “Following Mrs Darnell’s death we took immediate action to upgrade the locks on bathrooms so they can only be entered into with a key from the outside.”
MORE: Mental health patient ran bath and drowned in Norwich hospital, inquest told
He said that they also reviewed and clarified the trusts observation policy so staff know what procedures to take when a patient is absent.
“We have also enabled all clinical staff to more effectively evaluate any risk, embedding the enhanced DICES risk assessment training model across the trust.”
He added: “We have met with Mrs Darnell’s family to express our sincere condolences We have also shared our recommendations from our investigation with the family and assured them that all actions have been implemented.”