A mental health trust has become the first to be prosecuted under legislation drafted following the Mid Staffs scandal.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust will be taken to court after a patient sustained serious injuries during a fall from a low roof at Melbury Lodge, Royal Hampshire county hospital, Winchester, in December 2015.
The trust has been accused of failing to provide adequate care and treatment, and in failing to prevent what was avoidable harm.
Other patients who weren’t harmed were also exposed to risks, according to the prosecution.
The Care Quality Commission is now able to prosecute trust for such alleged offences, with the provision having been introduced in 2014 as a response to events in Mid Staffordshire.
The Stafford Hospital scandal concerns poor care and high mortality rates amongst patients at the Stafford Hospital, Stafford, England, in the late 2000s.
It was run at that time by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, and supervised by the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority.
The trust was criticised by a public inquiry for the “routine” neglect of patients between 2005 and 2009.
Melbury Lodge, the subject of this new court case, is entrusted with dealing with mothers and babies suffering from mental illness in a specialist unit.
Elderly mental health patients are also treated at the facility.
The Care Quality Commission has noted that anti-climb guttering at the hospital had been installed to prevent patients acquiring access to the roof.
Fencing has also been amended in order to reduce potential footholds, after concerns were raised regarding accessibility.
Julie Dawes, interim chief executive of Southern Health, took the opportunity to express the regrets of the organisation.
“I express again our apologies to the patient involved, and the patient’s family. The safety of people using our services is of central importance to us and we are doing everything we can to improve the safety and quality of our services at present.”
Dawes also pointed to major improvements that have been made since the issue came to light.
“Since the incident the trust has made significant improvements to Melbury Lodge, investing over £1m. This includes climb-proof guttering to prevent a similar incident taking place, as well as comprehensive refurbishment of the interior to make the ward safer and more therapeutic for patients.”
Southern Health currently provides services to 45,000 people across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
Basingstoke magistrates court will hear the case relating to Melbury Lodge this year.