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Sentencing of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust over failure to ensure patient safety delayed

By Kerry.Ashdown  |  Posted: February 21, 2014

Gillian Astbury

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STAFFORD Hospital bosses will have to wait to find out how much their beleaguered trust will be fined after sentencing for a health and safety breach was postponed.

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was due to be sentenced at Stafford Crown Court today, after admitting in October 2013 to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act in connection with the death of diabetic patient Gillian Astbury.

But Justice Haddon-Cave adjourned the sentencing, after hearing lengthy submissions from lawyers representing the Health and Safety Executive and the Trust, to a date yet to be determined.

He said: “This is an important case which will have implications. I want to reflect on the submissions that have been made today and I will therefore reserve sentence.

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“You will receive indication well in advance when I will be handing the sentence down. That will be as soon as possible.

“When I deliver sentence I would like to deliver it here. It seems to me appropriate.”

The court heard of numerous failings in the care of Ms Astbury, of Hednesford, who died in April 2007 aged 66. She was admitted to Stafford Hospital with a fractured arm.

Bernard Thorogood, prosecuting on behalf of the HSE, said: “Ten days later she died a wholly avoidable death. Her death was a direct result of insulin deficiency.”

Poor standards of recording information and poor communication between staff were highlighted as two of the major factors in Ms Astbury’s death.

A 2010 inquest into her death had found the failure to administer insulin was gross negligence by the trust.

Stephen Climbie, defending, told the court the trust had apologised to Ronald Street, Ms Astbury’s carer, and her family.

He described the case as “unique for a number of factors.”

“The first is the time it has been under the popular spotlight. The second is the cost associated with that matter, in terms of financial cost and morale and staffing levels.

“Thirdly is the fact they are the only foundation trust in administration. Fourth, none of those responsible in senior management posts at the time of her death are currently employed within the trust.

“The loss of life should be marked – this is an aggravating factor. In an appropriate case it may be required to send out a message. This is not such a case.

“It cannot be said this trust needs to be told, in light of the scrutiny it has undergone. That message has been well and truly relayed.”

The trust is due to hear its fate next week, when Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce the finalised plans. Recommendations include the dissolution of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which would see Stafford Hospital merge with University Hospital of North Staffordshire Trust and Cannock Hospital come under the Royal Wolverhampton Trust.

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