Criminal inquiry into death at scandal hospital

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A criminal investigation has begun into the death of a woman at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said yesterday.

Gillian Astbury died after slipping into a diabetic coma at the hospital in 2007.

An inquest into her death found that the failure to administer insulin to the 66-year-old amounted to a gross failure to provide basic care.

An HSE spokesman said: “Following legal advice, HSE deferred a decision to pursue the investigation into Gillian Astbury’s death until the conclusion of the public inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC, into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

“We can now confirm that our inspectors have today formally started an investigation.

“Our focus will be on establishing whether there is evidence of the employer (the Trust) or individuals failing to comply with their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

The report by Mr Francis highlighted “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” at the Trust between 2005 and 2009.

As many as 1,200 patients may have died needlessly after they were “routinely neglected” at the hospital.

Many were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

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

Jurors at the 2010 inquest found that a contributory factor in her death was a systemic failure to provide adequate nursing facilities and low staffing levels.

Returning a narrative verdict after the two-day hearing, the panel also said another contributory factor was the failure of 
nursing staff to record glucose 
levels, communicate properly with each other and read clinical notes.

In a statement issued by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, its director of quality and patient experience, Julie Hendry, said: “In 2010 we reviewed Ms 
Astbury’s dreadful care and, as a result, disciplinary action was taken.

“We will, of course, co-operate fully with the Health and Safety Executive’s investigation.”