Beds, Herts & Bucks

BMI Healthcare fined £100,000 over Michael Walsh death

A private healthcare firm has been fined £100,000 after an 85-year-old patient fell from a hospital balcony following an operation.

Michael Walsh fell 15ft from the balcony at BMI Shelburne Hospital in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, after becoming confused.

He died the following day of pneumonia resulting from his injuries.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard sliding doors to the balcony could not be fully locked. BMI admitted safety breaches.

The firm pleaded guilty to a failure to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and apologised to relatives of Mr Walsh, whose son is BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh.

'Tragic case'

The court heard that there were no keys available to staff to lock the doors and even once they were made available, sliding doors could not be fully locked.

The flaw was not recognised until after Mr Walsh's death as BMI Healthcare did not carry out an adequate risk assessment, the court heard.

As well as the fine, BMI was ordered to pay £29,446 in costs.

Judge Joanna Cutts said: "In every sense this is a tragic case. It is clear that Mr Walsh was a loved man and in his later years took an active life.

"I cannot ignore that this company could and should have done more to ensure the safety of patients and a man has died as a result."

'Truly sorry'

Fergus Walsh said: "We are very relieved it is over and the crucial thing is that it never happens to anybody again, whether it is in an NHS hospital, a private hospital or a nursing home.

"Any sliding door that can open is the same risk as a window."

The judge recognised that there was no failure in terms of staff or staffing levels, but that the failure was not realising the built-in risk of the doors that could not be locked.

BMI has now rectified the problem, the court heard.

Stephen Collier, chief executive of BMI Healthcare, said: "The death of Mr Walsh was tragic and I recognise the grief it must have caused then and now.

"BMI Healthcare is truly sorry and we apologise again to Mr Walsh's family and friends."

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