Hospital trust cleared of health and safety breach

Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has this afternoon (Monday) been cleared of a breach of health and safety regulations at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital after the case against them collapsed.

The trust was accused of failing to carry out maintenance work on windows at the Sibsey Road site over a 10-year period.

The charge was brought as a result of an investigation into the death of a patient.

But halfway through a trial at Lincoln Crown Court the prosecution offered no evidence and the trust was formally found not guilty.

The trust denied a charge of breaching the 1992 Health and Safety Regulations by failing to maintain windows at the Pilgrim Hospital in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair between January 1, 2001 and September 28, 2011.

But this afternoon Adam Farrer, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), told the jury of six men and six women: “After closing the prosecution case, the prosecution have reviewed the case against the trust and have come to the conclusion that it is not appropriate to continue the case. The prosecution therefore offer no evidence.”

The decision to abandon the case came at the end of the prosecution case and immediately before the trust was due to start calling evidence in its defence.

During the trial Mr Farrer told the jury that the charge was brought as a result of an investigation into the death of a patient in September 2011.

Adrian Bennett, 40, fell to his death from the fifth floor of the hospital after opening a kitchen window and climbing onto a ledge. At the time he was a patient in ward 5A where he was being treated for a number of injuries including fractures to his pelvis and ribs.

Mr Farrer said: “The prosecution does not suggest that any lack of maintenance would have prevented Mr Bennett from opening the window. Even with a well-maintained brand new restrictor, an adult male has the strength to break the restrictor.

“The prosecution is not saying that Mr Bennett could not have forced that window open but the incident involving Mr Bennett is background to this case.”

The investigation that followed the death revealed that there had been no planned maintenance work on the windows carried out since they were fitted as part of a refurbishment programme in 2001.

But the windows were examined following an alert issued by the Department of Health in 2007 to all hospital authorities.

And shortly before the death the trust had started a programme of checks to mark the 10th anniversary of the windows being fitted. At time of the tragedy the fifth floor windows had yet to be examined.