Care home was not competent to handle resident who killed worker20 July 2012
An NHS Trust and the owner of a Dunstable care home have been sentenced after being found guilty of safety failings following the fatal stabbing of a care worker.
On 24 August 2007, care worker Kathleen Bainbridge, 58, was killed by a resident at Abacus House, in Princes Street. Stephen Flatt, who suffers from bipolar disorder, became agitated and stabbed Mrs Bainbridge twice in the chest with a knife from the kitchen. Barbara Hill, a fellow care worker, was also attacked as she tried to help Mrs Bainbridge. She sustained minor injuries.
A joint investigation launched by the HSE, Central Bedfordshire Council and the Police found that Abacus House was not a suitable care facility for Flatt, who had been placed there by the Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
Flatt had a history of low-level violence, and staff at the home had no expertise and received no training in how to handle people with his disorder, or for managing violent behaviour. The home was mainly equipped to care for patients who suffered from acquired brain injuries.
At a sentencing hearing yesterday (19 July), Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was fined £150,000, along with costs of £326,346, for breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It had been previously been found guilty at Luton Crown Court on 28 June, following an eight-week trial.
The Council also prosecuted the owner of Abacus House, Chelvanayagam Menna. The investigation found that he had failed to identify the risks posed by Flatt, who needed to be housed in a more suitable facility. At the same June hearing, Menna was found guilty of breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the 1974 Act and was yesterday fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs to the Council of £338,996.
The judge told Menna he had not been candid when the Trust inquired as to whether the home could cater for someone with Flatt’s condition, and allowed “financial gain to guide him rather than a prudent approach to issues of safety”. The home was not competent to care for Flatt, concluded the judge. The home has since closed.
Commenting on the Trust’s failings, HSE inspector Karl Howes said following sentencing: “Care homes have a duty not only to protect the safety of their residents but their staff as well. The NHS Trust failed to adequately assess the risks that were posed to staff and other residents from placing Mr Flatt in Abacus House.
“I hope this will make all NHS Trusts and care facilities carefully consider the procedures that they have in place during patient placement.”
In April 2009, Flatt was tried for murder at Luton Crown Court but was deemed unfit to enter a plea. At a trial of issue, jurors ruled that Flatt killed Mrs Bainbridge and he was sentenced to indefinite detention at a mental-health unit.
Describing the complexities of the case, Councillor Budge Wells said: “The legal process has been long and difficult, particularly for Mrs Bainbridge’s family, but also for her former colleagues – especially Mrs Hill.
“Of course, the trial of Stephen Flatt had to take initial priority and, once this was concluded, the Police instigated a further investigation of the Trust and care-home owner. However, the Council and HSE cooperated closely on their investigation from the outset and were in a position to progress with proceedings as soon as the Police cleared the way.”
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