Kathleen Bainbridge, 58, from Luton was killed at Abacus House, on Princes Street, on 24 August 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 today (28 June) found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. 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 found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the same Act.
After the hearing 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, Deputy Executive Member for Sustainable Communities, Services at 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 cooperated 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.”
Sentencing will take place on 19 July at Luton Crown Court.
Notes to editors
1. As this was a workplace fatality the owner of the care home, Mr Menna, had a legal responsibility to notify relevant authorities. He did this on the day of the incident, notifying the former South Bedfordshire District Council on 24 August 2007.
2. Central Bedfordshire Council instigated proceedings against Mr Menna under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act1974 in December 2010. HSE jointly prosecuted Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust under the same legislation.
3. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
4. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
Central Bedfordshire Council
0300 300 4671
Valerie Amar-Matthews, Regional News Network
01223 370 785
Issued on behalf of HSE by Regional News Network.