Scandal-plagued Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust admits death of diabetic patient Gillian Astbury

66-year-old died in April 2007 after nurses failed to give her insulin

Matthew Cooper
Wednesday 09 October 2013 14:35 BST
Gillian Astbury died in Stafford Hospital, aged 66, because nurses failed to give her insulin
Gillian Astbury died in Stafford Hospital, aged 66, because nurses failed to give her insulin

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A scandal-plagued hospital trust has admitted breaching health and safety law over the death of a diabetic in-patient who was not given insulin.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of Gillian Astbury, who lapsed into a fatal diabetic coma while being treated at Stafford Hospital in April 2007.

The Trust pleaded guilty through its barrister to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to properly manage and organise hospital services, including its systems for record-keeping, patient information and communication between staff members.

The criminal prosecution at Stafford Magistrates' Court was brought by the Health and Safety Executive three years after an inquest jury ruled that Mrs Astbury's death was contributed to by low staffing levels and a systemic failure to provide adequate nursing facilities.

The inquest also concluded that the failure to administer insulin to the 66-year-old amounted to a gross failure to provide basic care.

Mrs Astbury, from Hednesford, Staffordshire, died in the early hours of April 11 2007 while being treated for fractures to her arm and pelvis.

Stafford Hospital has previously been the subject of several highly critical reports, including a full public inquiry, which identified "routine" neglect of patients between 2005 and 2009.

The Trust, which admitted one count of failing to discharge its duties under safety law, submitted to the court that the case could be dealt with by magistrates.

But lawyers acting for the HSE said the "grave" matters should properly be dealt with by a Crown Court judge.

Outlining the facts of the case to the court, prosecutor Bernard Thorogood said Mrs Astbury's carer, Ron Street, had clearly instructed medical staff she had diabetes at the start of her ten-day hospital stay.

Arguing for the case should be sent to the Crown Court, Mr Thorogood told magistrates: "Mrs Astbury came into hospital for care and as a direct result of the defendant's failings, she died.

"The harm caused is of the highest level of gravity - the loss of a life.

"This is the only criminal case to have been brought in connection with the problems which everybody nationally knows about at the Trust.

"There is a public interest in such a sensitive and important matter being dealt with at the most senior level within the criminal jurisdiction."

Mr Thorogood added that the case concerned the exposure of numerous individuals, of which Gillian Astbury was one, to unnecessary risk.

Mrs Astbury, who had mild dementia, was being treated for a broken arm and pelvis after a fall.

In the final days of her life, some hospital staff failed to make adequate records and conduct hand-overs properly, and she was not given insulin.

The Trust, which now faces an unlimited fine, is currently in the hands of administrators.

David Lewis, for the Trust, told JPs the organisation wished to place on record that it was "very sorry" for the loss, pain and distress caused by its actions.


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