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May 25, 2005

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NHS warned to prevent violence against staff

The prosecution of a London NHS Trust over the killing of a health-care assistant by a psychiatric patient sends “a strong message” to other hospital trusts to manage potential violence at work, according to the HSE.


The South West London Primary and St George’s Mental Health Trust was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay £14,000 costs on 5 May after pleading guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 by failing to protect employee Mamade Eshan Chattun. Mr Chattun was working alone at Springfield University Hospital in south-west London on 17 June 2003 when he was battered to death by a psychiatric patient.

The Central Criminal Court heard that a “significant management failure” had resulted in the young father’s death. Brian Etheridge, the HSE’s field operations director for London, commented: “By pleading guilty the Trust acknowledged that it has fallen short of the standards required. Health and safety is not an unnecessary extra, nor should it be a burden on employers. We simply ask for a sensible approach to the identification and management of risks. In this case, such an approach would have prevented this loss of life.”

In the wake of the case the UK’s largest health union UNISON called for better staff/patient ratios to ensure the safety of both, as well as better training for staff to deal with potentially violent patients. The union’s head of health, Karen Jennings added: “UNISON has been working closely with [Springfield University Hospital] management and a lot of important changes have already been implemented at the hospital.”


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