The scandal-hit Mid Staffordshire trust is to be prosecuted over the death of Gillian Astbury in 2007. But Julie Bailey of Cure the NHS tells Channel 4 News it is “too little, too late”.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the 2007 death earlier this year, following publication of the Francis inquiry into care at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009.
An inquest into Astbury’s death said there was enough evidence to bring criminal proceedings against the NHS foundation trust and the prosecution will be first made against the beleaguered trust.
66-year-old Gillian Astbury, a diabetic, was admitted to Stafford Hospital in 2007 after a fall, and the safety watchdog said that she died because she was not given a dose of insulin.
All we’re talking about at the moment is a sum of money, and to a hospital that’s in administration – it’s public money anyway. Julie Bailey, Cure the NHS
Peter Galsworthy, HSE head of operations in the West Midlands, said that the trust will be charged under section 3 (1) of the health and safety at work act.
“There is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings in this case,” he said. “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.”
However Julie Bailey of campaign group Cure the NHS, and a friend of the Astbury family, said the prosecution had come too late to be meaningful. “All this will do is penalise a failing hospital… It’s too little, too late,” she told Channel 4 News.
“There should have been a full investigation, and people held to account at the time. All we’re talking about at the moment is a sum of money, and to a hospital that’s in administration – it’s public money anyway.”
Our case alleges that the trust failed to devise, implement or properly manage structured and effective systems of communication. Peter Galsworthy, HSE
Police investigated after Astbury’s death, but the Crown Prosecution Service at the time ruled there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.
The first hearing of the case will be at Stafford magistrates court on 9 October this year.
Last month, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found two nurses guilty of misconduct for failing to spot that 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.
Looking to the future, Ms Bailey said she hoped the decision to prosecute would “send a signal” to other organisations that the HSE was now taking action.
“I do think that we have moved forward, and I think that we’ve reached a point where we have made that difference, and action will be taken much swifter now,” she told Channel 4 News. “The public won’t put up with it any more. In the past it’s been hidden.”