A Birmingham health care trust has been fined £20,000 after an elderly patient died when she fell through a hoist which was too big for her.
Ninety-year-old Alice Belle hit her head and died shortly after the accident at Moseley Hall Hospital, on Alcester Road, Moseley.
South Birmingham Primary Care Trust, which runs the hospital, admitted a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act and was also ordered to pay £17,500 costs.
Speaking after the hearing at Birmingham Crown Court, Mrs Belle’s granddaughter Jasmin Belle said: “We are happy to have some sort of closure.
“It was not about the money. It was the fact that what happened to our grandmother could have happened to anybody.”
The court heard Mrs Belle, who came to Birmingham from St Kitts in 1959, fell as two auxiliary nurses used a sling and a battery-operated lifting hoist to move her from a commode to her bed in March 2006.
Adam Farrer, prosecuting, said no system was in place at the time for allocating slings to patients and it had been left to the nurses to make a judgement.
Judge William Davis, QC, said it had not been possible to establish the exact cause of Mrs Belle’s death but the trust had accepted mistakes were made. He said: “Those who are most vulnerable, as Alice Belle was, need the most careful care.
“It is accepted by the primary care trust that they did not give proper care to her and that they did not detail the proper type of sling to be used, which allowed inexperienced staff to make a mistake.”
Bernard Thorogood, defending, said what happened was an “oversight” and new health and safety structures had since been put in place.
After the hearing, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it hoped the case would serve as a warning to other care providers.
Investigating inspector Amanda James said: “Alice Belle was a frail and vulnerable 90-year-old for whom the large sling, used at the time of the accident, was unsuitable.
“The moving and handling risk assessment, in place at the time, did not specify which sling should be used for the patient.
“A suitable risk assessment, carried out by competent staff, would have identified and recorded the appropriate type and size of sling and this should then have been communicated to all staff involved in moving and handling the patient.
“South Birmingham Primary Care Trust failed in its duty by exposing the patient to grave risk. It is essential to ensure that all equipment, including hoists and slings, is appropriate for the individual being moved or handled. It is also vital that professional carers and nursing staff receive adequate information, instruction and training in the correct selection and safe use of that equipment.”
In a three-year period, from April 2004 to April 2007, the HSE and local authorities received reports of approximately 92 incidents involving falls to patients or service-users, in the health and social care sector, where a hoist or sling was involved.
The HSE is warning health and social care employers to ensure that risks assessments are carried out to determine the suitability of equipment used in everyday tasks.