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Airedale hospital deaths 'due to systemic failures'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 June 2010

With a report identifying "individual and systems failure" at a hospital where three patients died, a whistleblower tells Channel 4 News management may have lost focus on patient care.

Anne Griggs-Booth

The independent inquiry reveals a catalogue of systemic failures in the way Anne Grigg Booth was allowed to carry out her work as a night nurse practitioner at Airedale NHS Trust.

The report suggests that "the events which transpired within Airedale Hospital" were the result of a "combination of individual and systems failure".

Former matron Anne Grigg Booth died in 2005, aged 52, before she could go on trial at Bradford crown court. She had been charged with murdering June Driver, 67, in July 2000; Eva Blackburn, 72, in November 2001; and Annie Midgley, 96, who died in July 2002.

She was also accused of trying to kill 42-year-old Michael Parker in June 2002. In addition, she faced 13 counts of unlawfully administering poison to 12 other patients.

The charges related to her injecting patients with high doses of painkillers such as morphine and diamorphine on the night shift at the hospital.

Download the report into Airedale NHS trust
The Airedale Inquiry (.pdf)

After Grigg Booth's death, from an overdose of anti-depressant drugs, West Yorkshire police said they believed she could have killed many more patients in her 25-year career as a nurse.

The report concludes that it was unlikely that Grigg Booth "deliberately set out to harm patients". But it notes that the senior nurse, a night nurse practitioner, was "utterly convinced of her own clinical prowess" and at night "she was effectively in charge of the hospital".

In its summary it asserts that "The most striking failure was in the disconnection between what was happening on the wards at night, and what the Board knew. The Board had no idea."

The Airedale Inquiry – key quotes
"We think it unlikely that she (Anne Grigg Booth) deliberately set out to harm patients. She was utterly convinced of her own clinical prowess; we have no doubt that on occasions she went well beyond the boundaries of acceptable nursing practice at that time and beyond the boundaries of her own clinical understanding. We are satisfied that she acted unlawfully from time to time."

"In our view the Trust Board failed in December 2002 and thereafter to recognise and act upon the fact that, whatever Sister Grigg Booth had done, she was part, if not a symbol, of a system that was not working."

"The most striking failure was in the disconnection between what was happening on the wards at night, and what the Board knew. The Board had no idea."

The report found the trust has made "very significant improvements" since 2005.


However former NHS whistleblower Ian Perkin told Channel 4 News that hospital management may have been too focused on their eventually successful efforts to achieve foundation status.

"If you go for foundation status, there's a lot of time and effort that has to be input by the management team," he said.

"They can't be doing two things at once. If they're putting all their effort into passing the test to get that status, then they may not be spending all the time they should be on patient care."

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