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Health & Families

Scandal-hit Stafford health trust to be prosecuted over death of diabetic patient who was not given insulin

Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust was subject to major inquiry that reported catastrophic care failings between 2005 and 2009

The NHS trust at the heart of one of the biggest scandals in the health service's history is to be prosecuted over a patient with diabetes who died after two nurses failed to administer insulin.

Gillian Astbury, 66, died at the Stafford Hospital in April 2007 after entering a diabetic coma. Two nurses, Ann King and Jeanette Coulson have already been found guilty of misconduct by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The Health and Safety Executive said there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which will be charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act. If found guilty, the trust could be subject to an unlimited fine. 

It is the latest sanction to be brought against the struggling trust, which was subject to a major inquiry which reported catastrophic care failings between 2005 and 2009. Last month the trust was declared "clinically and financially" unsustainable by administrators who recommended it be dissolved, and its hospitals incorporated into neighbouring NHS trusts.

The HSE's decision to prosecute comes after an investigation into Mrs Astbury's death launched earlier this year, following Robert Francis inquiry into events at Stafford Hospital.

An inquest into Mrs Astbury's death recorded a narrative verdict but said a failure to administer insulin amounted to a gross failure to provide basic care.

Peter Galsworthy, HSE head of operations in the West Midlands, said: "We have concluded our investigation into the death of Gillian Astbury at Stafford Hospital and have decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings in this case.

"HSE will be charging Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

"Gillian Astbury died on April 11 2007, of diabetic ketoacidosis, when she was an inpatient at the hospital.

"The immediate cause of death was the failure to administer insulin to a known diabetic patient.

"Our case alleges that the trust failed to devise, implement or properly manage structured and effective systems of communication for sharing patient information, including in relation to shift handovers and record-keeping."

The case's first hearing will be at Stafford Magistrates' Court on 9 October.