• Robert Spicer

Hospital death: food served to nil by mouth patient: health and safety prosecution

Hospital death: £40,000 fine

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service v Highland Health Board (2015) Inverness Sheriff Court, July 7

Highland Health Board has been fined following the death of a hospital patient who was served food despite being categorised as nil by mouth.

Significant points of the case

  • In December 2013 James South was admitted to Raigmore Hospital suffering from a number of complaints. He was treated with naso-gastric feeding. A label stating that he was to be Nil by Mouth was placed at the head of his bed.

  • South died following the lunchtime meal which was served to him. He was found to have mashed potato on his face and inside the mask which he had been wearing.

  • The Health Board had failed in its duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of those not in its employment and had not taken all reasonable steps to ensure that riks to patients with special dietary requirements were managed.

Highland Health Board was fined £40,000 for a breach of section 3, HSW Act.

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that the failings demonstrated the need for effective communication and understanding in the health care environment and the need to appropriately manage the risks to patients with special requirements.

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