CQC prosecutes United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust for failing to provide safe care and treatment

Published: 28 March 2022 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has been ordered to pay a total of £111,204 after pleading guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment to a patient, causing them avoidable harm, following a sentencing hearing today (Friday 25 March) at Boston Magistrates’ Court.

An elderly patient, Iris Longmate was admitted to the Greetwell Ward at Lincoln County Hospital on 20 February 2019.

On 3 March 2019 Iris fainted and fell unsupervised from a commode. She was found face down on the floor in her room. During resuscitation, hospital staff placed Iris against exposed hot water heating pipes, causing her significant burns.

Iris sustained spinal injuries and a cut to the head as a result of the fall and burns to her thigh and left arm as a result of being pressed against a radiator whilst being assessed following the fall. The trust failed to provide and maintain a safe environment, and due to exposed hot water pipes and surfaces in patient rooms, Iris suffered avoidable burns after her fall.

Following the fall, Iris was transferred to Queens Medical Centre for assessment and treatment. She sadly contracted pneumonia in hospital and died on 14 March 2019.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust did not take all reasonable steps to ensure that safe care and treatment was provided, resulting in avoidable harm to Iris. In pleading guilty to the offence of causing avoidable harm to Iris, the trust also acknowledged that other patients on the Greetwell Ward had also been exposed to a significant risk of avoidable harm.

The state of the hospital environment ultimately led to the burns sustained by Iris after she had fallen.

The trust pleaded guilty to a single offence of failure to provide safe care and treatment causing avoidable harm to Iris, for which the trust was fined £100,000. The court also ordered the trust to pay £170 victim surcharge and £11,034 costs to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which brought this prosecution.

There are a number of enforcement actions CQC can and will take before prosecution to encourage and support improvement. People are entitled to receive safe care and treatment when they put their trust in health and care services, and providers should be held to account when significant avoidable failures occur.

The size of the fine is a decision made by the court and is informed by sentencing guidelines. CQC does not have influence over this decision.

Fiona Allinson, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said:

“This death is a tragedy. My thoughts are with the family and others grieving for their loss.

“People have the right to safe care and treatment, so it’s unacceptable that patient safety was not well managed by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

“Had the trust addressed the issues with the exposed heating pipes before Iris fell, she wouldn’t have suffered such awful burns injuries.

“The vast majority of people receive good care when they attend hospital, but if we find a provider has put people in its care at risk of harm, we take action to hold it to account and protect people.

“I hope this prosecution reminds health and social care organisations they must provide care in a safe environment that meets the needs of patients, so they receive the safe care and treatment they deserve.”

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About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.