Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Hospital fall trust fined 10,000

A primary care trust (PCT) has been fined £10,000 after a partially-sighted patient fell from a first-floor hospital window in Essex.

The retired 68-year-old man suffered a blow to the head and broke his pelvis and shoulder in the fall in March last year at Clacton Hospital.

North East Essex PCT was fined by Harwich magistrates after admitting breaches of health and safety rules.

The window was able to be opened wider than rules permitted, the court heard.

The PCT was also ordered to pay costs of £4,972, following the prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The court heard that the patient was staying in the St Osyth Priory Ward at Clacton Hospital.

'Severely injured'

On 4 March 2008, he had walked into the ward's first floor toilet area and fell from an open window to the ground below.

The window was able to open 254mm (10in), but NHS standards stated it should have a restrictor fitted so that it could only open to 100mm (4in).

Shortly before the incident the PCT was required by the Department of Health to review its window restrictors and identify any that were missing, damaged or defective.

This review was not carried out, magistrates were told.

After the case, HSE Inspector Kim Wicks said: "North East Essex PCT failed in its duty to ensure the health and safety of this retired gentleman, who was left severely injured after his fall, which should never have happened.

Apology to patient

"The risk of vulnerable patients falling from windows above ground level is well known and there have been a number of similar cases."

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, chief executive of North East Essex PCT, said the trust had apologised to the injured man.

In a statement, he said: "Lessons have been learned within the trust as a result of this incident and the trust has reviewed its risk management systems concerning general risks and those specifically relevant to windows.

"We have put in place new systems to ensure that risks are identified and appropriate control measures adopted and monitored."

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