Carer welcomes Stafford decision
Thursday 29th August 2013, 4:40PM BST.
The carer of a woman who died after entering a diabetic coma has welcomed news that the NHS trust handling her care is to be prosecuted.
Ron Street, 79, said he was “pleased” action was being taken over the death of 66-year-old Gillian Astbury in 2007.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said there was enough evidence to bring criminal proceedings against scandal-hit Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust over the death.
An inquest into Mrs Astbury’s death recorded a narrative verdict but said a failure to administer insulin amounted to a gross failure to provide basic care.
Mr Street, from Hednesford, Staffordshire, who was a friend and full-time carer for Mrs Astbury, said: “I am pleased that some action is being taken and I hope it will give some degree of consolation to other families whose loved ones died at Stafford Hospital.
“As the matter is now sub judice, I have no further comment to make until the outcome of legal proceedings.”
Peter Galsworthy, HSE head of operations in the West Midlands, said it was bringing the case under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
He added: “We have concluded our investigation into the death of Gillian Astbury at Stafford Hospital and have decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings in this case.
“Gillian Astbury died on April 11 2007 of diabetic ketoacidosis when she was an inpatient at the hospital.
“The immediate cause of death was the failure to administer insulin to a known diabetic patient.
“Our case alleges that the trust failed to devise, implement or properly manage structured and effective systems of communication for sharing patient information, including in relation to shift handovers and record-keeping.”
The case’s first hearing will be at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on October 9.
Mid Staffordshire was the focus of one of the biggest scandals in the history of the NHS when hundreds more people died than would normally be expected at Stafford Hospital.
The Francis Inquiry highlighted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people”, with some patients left lying in their own faeces for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.
That Inquiry followed a 2009 investigation by the Healthcare Commission which found between 400 and 1,200 more people died at Stafford Hospital than would have been expected.
Police investigated after Mrs Astbury’s death, but the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.
Last month, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found two nurses guilty of misconduct for failing to spot Mrs Astbury was diabetic.
It ruled that Ann King and Jeannette Coulson had failed to look at or update Mrs Astbury’s records and failed to carry out blood tests.
Maggie Oldham, chief executive at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We accept the findings of the Health and Safety Executive’s investigation.
“Our thoughts remain with the family of Gillian Astbury and we apologise for the appalling care Ms Astbury received at our hospital in April 2007.
“Ms Astbury’s death was reported as a serious untoward incident at the time and a full investigation into her care and treatment was carried out.
“The recommendations from that investigation were implemented.
“Actions included raising staff awareness about the care of diabetic patients and improving the information system for nurse handovers.
“In 2010 we reviewed Ms Astbury’s dreadful care and, as a result, disciplinary action was taken.”
Last month, administrators recommended Stafford Hospital be stripped of key services and the trust dissolved.
The trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital, went into administration in April after a report concluded it was not “clinically or financially sustainable”.
It is regarded as no longer viable and has severe financial problems – earning around £150 million a year but costing about £170 million to run.
Speaking to BBC Midlands Today, Mr Street said of the prosecution: “It will serve to send out a message across the NHS.
“Gill is only one of many and I am only one bereaved of many.”