AN NHS Trust and the owner of a former care home have been sentenced after being found guilty of safety failings following the fatal stabbing of a care worker at a private residential care home in Dunstable.
Kathleen Bainbridge, 58, from Luton, was killed at Abacus House, on Princes Street, Dunstable, on August 24, 2007 by resident Stephen Flatt, then aged 55, who attacked her with a knife from a kitchen.
Fellow care worker Barbara Hill, from Dunstable, was also attacked when she went to help her colleague.
A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Central Bedfordshire Council found that Abacus House was not the correct care facility for Mr Flatt, who had been placed there by the Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
A trial at Luton Crown Court heard he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that Abacus House staff had no expertise or training for dealing with people with this disorder, or for managing violent or aggressive behaviour.
Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was yesterday (July 19) fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £326,346 for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for its failings in relation to the fatal incident, after being prosecuted by HSE.
The council brought proceedings at the same time against the owner of Abacus House, Chelvanayagam Menna, who was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs to the Council of £338,996 after being found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the same Act.
After the sentencing, HSE Inspector Karl Howes said: “This was a tragic incident that left a family without a wife, mother and grandmother. No-one expects to go to work and never return home.
“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.”
Councillor Budge Wells from Central Bedfordshire Council 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 co-operated closely on their investigation from the outset and were in a position to progress with proceedings as soon as the police cleared the way.
“All concerned in the case hope that the right lessons are learned from this tragedy and that nothing of a similar nature occurs in future.”
In 2009 Flatt was sentenced to indefinite custody in a mental health unit.