Stafford Hospital trust admits 'significant' breaches over patient deaths
The NHS trust that ran Stafford Hospital has pleaded guilty to "very significant" health and safety breaches connected to the deaths of four elderly patients in its care.
Stafford Magistrates' Court heard that three of the deaths occurred after falls, while another took place after a patient was given penicillin, despite hospital staff being told she was allergic to the antibiotic.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which no longer operates medical services, pleaded guilty to four offences through its solicitor and will be sentenced at Stafford Crown Court.
Officials at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced charges against the trust last month after investigating the deaths of Lillian Tucker, 77, Ivy Bunn, 90, Edith Bourne, 83, and 89-year-old Patrick Daly.
Details of the charges relating to the deaths - which occurred in 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2014 - were not read to the court.
Entering the trust's pleas, lawyer David Lewis told District Judge Jack McGarva: "In relation to each of the charges I have the authority of the trust special administrator to enter a plea of guilty.
"I also have specific instructions to take this first public opportunity to express very sincere condolences to the families of all four individuals, and to apologise for the shortcomings in care which caused them so much pain and distress."
Prosecutor Bernard Thorogood told the court three of the charges related to a failure to conduct a proper risk assessment and identify controls to prevent falls.
"Three of the individuals concerned arrived at hospital vulnerable to falls, had falls and suffered injuries from those falls, which are connected then to the loss of life."
Addressing the fourth death, the barrister, representing the HSE, said poor record-keeping and management problems led to a nursing sister administering penicillin to a patient who rapidly went into a coma and died.
Mr Thorogood said: "The problems identified by the investigation were clearly of long standing and the harm caused was of the highest order.
"For those reasons we submit that the right course is to send the case for sentence at the Crown Court."
The Mid Staffordshire trust, which was replaced by new governance structures in November last year, was at the centre of an independent investigation and a public inquiry into "appalling" levels of care between 2005 and 2009.
Committing the case to the Crown Court on a date to be fixed, District Judge McGarva said the maximum fine available at the magistrates' court was £20,000 for each offence.
He told the court: "It's clear that the failings alleged in this case are very significant.
"I am of the view that the magistrates' court is not the appropriate court to deal with this case."
Relatives of all four patients named in the charges were present in court but declined to comment to reporters following the case.