UK legal first as court fines health trust over patient death ‘secrecy’: Staff did not act ‘with candour or openness’ towards 91-year-old woman’s family, hearing is told
- Elsie Woodfield, 91, died at Derriford Hospital after going in for an endoscopy
- Suffered perforated oesophagus and later collapsed and died on hospital ward
- University Hospitals Plymouth Trust prosecuted and fined by court yesterday
A hospital trust yesterday became the first in Britain to be prosecuted and fined for failing to be ‘transparent’ about a death.
University Hospitals Plymouth Trust did not act ‘with candour or openness’ towards an elderly patient’s family.
Elsie Woodfield, 91, died at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital after going in for an endoscopy.
University Hospitals Plymouth Trust has been prosecuted and fined for failing to be ‘transparent’ about the death of Elsie Woodfield, 91, who died at Derriford Hospital (pictured) after going in for an endoscopy
The Care Quality Commission said the trust failed to tell her family that the death may have been caused by a mistake during the operation.
Her daughter Anna Davidson received a letter apologising some time later, but she felt it lacked ‘remorse’, Plymouth Magistrates’ Court heard.
Yesterday the trust gave a new apology after admitting it breached its duty of candour under the Health and Social Care Act.
The duty was imposed in 2015 after hundreds of patients were abused and neglected in the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal.
The CQC has issued fines and warnings for similar breaches in the past but this was the first time it had taken a trust to court.
The court was told that Mrs Woodfield’s endoscopy was abandoned after five minutes when she suffered a perforated oesophagus. She later collapsed and died on a hospital ward.
The Care Quality Commission said the trust failed to tell her family that the death may have been caused by a mistake during the operation. (Stock image)
Her family were never told exactly what had happened as an internal incident report deemed it not to be a serious incident.
When her daughter complained, a statement from the trust ‘failed to provide an account of all the facts’. The court heard she has found it ‘impossible to grieve’ with so many unanswered questions.
The trust accepted that it failed to communicate with the patient’s family openly and transparently.
District Judge Joanna Matson said she was bound by maximum penalty guidelines that were not enough to cover the distress caused by the breach and ordered the trust to pay all the legal costs in the case – £10,845 on top of a £1,600 fine and £120 victim surcharge.