Stafford patient died for lack of insulin

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Standard_insulin_syringe The first criminal investigation into a death at Stafford General Hospital has found that a patient with a broken hip died as a result of not being given insulin.

Gillian Astbury, aged 66, died in 2007 in a diabetic coma after a new nursing team failed to read her clinical notes.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is investigating the death as a possible criminal violation of the Health and Safety at Work Act, punishable by a fine.

This is the first criminal investigation arising from the Mid-Staffs tragedy, and the first instance of failure to give medication being considered as a crime.

Ms Astbury was admitted to Stafford General Hospital in 2007 with hip and arm fractures following a fall. Her partner reported finding her left without food or cleaning on several occasions.

The inquest jury concluded: “Nursing facilities were poor, staff levels were too low, training was poor, and record keeping and communications systems were poor and inadequately managed.”

The Francis inquiry said the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust had put “corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of quality and patient safety”.

However, NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson blamed the deaths on the Labour Government’s infection control and waiting time targets, which he said monopolised clinical attention in hospitals.

The HSE commented that it will focus on “establishing whether there is evidence of the employer or individuals failing to comply with their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

The case could have implications for many situations in which healthcare professionals administer medication.