A hospital has been fined having admitted it failed to ensure the
safety of patients, following the deaths of two men who contracted Legionnaires’ disease.
Basildon Hospital must now pay fines and costs totalling £350,000 for failing to
protect patients and visitors.
James Compton, 74, of Billericay, and Raymond Cackett, 54, from South Ockendon, died in 2007 and 2010 respectively after contracting the disease at the Essex hospital.
Six other people were also infected by chronic legionella – a serious lung infection caused by bacteria common in water systems – at the hospital; some “nearly” dying from the disease, a court heard.
Trust bosses also admitted a similar charge relating to a patient on the hospital’s elderly ward who was injured after falling five metres from an unrestricted window.
Both failures are ‘serious’
Judge David Turner, sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, said: “These are failure of very different kinds but each is in its own way serious.
“The very phrase Legionnaires’ disease is enough to strike a chord of concern for any of us staying in hospital anywhere in this country or who have elderly relatives staying in hospital.
“Managing and controlling these bacteria is a huge, costly and complicated challenge for hospitals everywhere.
“Their failure was not of ignorance, lack of concern or reckless disregard for safety.
“The extent of their shortcomings need to be seen against the complexity of the challenge they faced and the number of people through their doors.”
‘Insufficient action taken’
Prosecutor Pascal Bates had told the court that the hospital had been fighting the disease for up to 15 years. But despite a previous prosecution after the death of 77-year-old George Bate in 2002, managers took insufficient action to protect the public.
Basildon Hospital is one of 14 identified in NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s report into abnormally high death rates.